This brightly colored bird is a Red-naped Sapsucker, a member of the woodpecker family that drills multiple shallow holes in trees that are called ‘sap wells’. Though they will eat insects trapped in the sap, their tongues are made for ‘sipping sap’. Additionally they will eat some of the fibrous tissue and fruit of the tree.
This species of sapsucker (there are 4 sapsucker species, all found in North America) does have a red nape (back of the neck). It also has a red crown plus striking black and white stripes on it’s head. Male birds have full red throats like the bird in my photos while females (usually) have white chins. The red on them is a very deep color that is very eye-catching in sunlight. They also have light yellow bellies that can be seen in the top photo.
Red-naped Sapsuckers are are found in the interior western U.S. and a small section of western Canada. They look very much like the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers found in eastern U.S. and through much of Canada. They are distinguished by a combination of field marks: having the red on their napes (though some have very little red and females lack red nape); lack of black border around red chin and throat of males; white chin and red throat of females; and some subtle distinctions on their backs.
These birds breed in the Rocky Mountains during summer months then migrate to lower elevations for winter. I live near the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains so see them migrating through. And a small number of them will spend the winter in my town that has a very mild climate that is more conducive to flowing sap. They do visit some yards in my town that have trees that they prefer.
I enjoy watching these brightly colored woodpeckers. Also, the sap wells they drill draw a number of other birds including hummingbirds, warblers and kinglets as well as a few small mammals that either like the sap or the insects drawn to the sap.
Have you seen Red-naped Sapsuckers, their eastern counterparts the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers or their west coast cousins the Red-breasted Sapsuckers?
Have you seen other birds or even mammals feeding at sap wells created by sapsuckers?