One of my favorite April migrants is the Yellow bellied Sapsucker. Each year for the last few years, I have made great efforts to seek out this species. Generally, they are easy to find in a decent forest during the last three weeks of April. Males migrate though first, then females follow through in early May. Females of course have white throats.
YBSS is a keystone species - lots of other species benefit from the tree sap they liberate from inside of trees. I have read once that even hummingbirds use tree sap to fuel up on energy as they migrate after YBSS. I have seen lots of insects feeding off this tree sap as well.
In the summer, it seems that YBSS makes different formations "holes" in tree bark (grid shaped) than it makes during migration (horizontal-linear). Last summer at Killarny Provincial park, I saw YBSS strip large patches of bark which attracts more insects. The YBSS would grab insects attracted to the sap and bring it back to the nest, wanting to gives its offspring some protein rather than just a sugary sweet drink.
One last thing that I love about YBSS is how they make an auditory proclamation not by singing - but rather, with a distinct tapping sequence that is very memorable. I recall a few years ago while on a trip to Carden Alvar, I was driving down Wylie Road and stopped to listen to the tapping noise. I did not realize right away that a YBSS was just meters from my car. It was tapping on a fence post that was resonating very loudly. I tried to record that interaction with this species, and I've embedded that video in this posting.
In Essex County - it seems that YBSS are just migrants. They breed as close at Skunks Misery - and I recall hearing YBSS tapping its mating call at that wonderful forest and being amazed to hear it at its mid-summer breeding grounds.
If you take your time to observe this species, they seem to tap several trees in an area (it seems to have species favorites) and it "does the rounds". If you are patient enough, you can almost predict where it will go next. Sometimes, it will chase off other woodpeckers that try to get a free drink from its sap wells.
Its just one of many fantastic woodpecker and sapsucker species. I have a personal fascination with woodpeckers, and blog readers might know that several years ago - I travelled to sisters oregon to a woodpecker festival that featured three new sapsucker species - Williamsons Sapsucker, Red breasted Sapsucker and Red-naped Sapsucker. (photos provided below).
So, next time you see YBSS - you can appreciate its "keystone species" status. This is just one of many journeys that we in ornithology do. We don't just want a photo of a bird, or a check on a checklist. We can slowly get to know a species - its habitat, behavior, its diet, its migration pattern. There is so much to learn and discover in ecology... you have to love it!
This photo below was from April 2018 at Black Oak Heritage Park
Post a Comment