Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The red-naped sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis, is a woodpecker that breeds in coniferous forests and montane riparian woodlands of the western United States and southwestern Canada. It winters in Baja California and western Mexico. In the summer, it is commonly found along riparian woodlands at mid-elevations throughout the state of Utah.

Sapsuckers drill rows of holes in the bark of trees and then return later to eat the sap and the insects it attracts. Individuals will guard their "sap wells" from other species. Males and females participate in a courtship display involving drumming duets and courtship flights. Pairs are monogamous and they work together to excavate a nest cavity in a live tree, usually near water. The incubation period lasts about two weeks, with the female incubating the four to five eggs during the day, and the male incubating the eggs during the night. The young are born naked and blind, and are tended to by both parents. Chicks leave the nest about one month after hatching. Their parents teach them the art of sapsucking, and they are only dependent on their parents for a short time thereafter.

In mountainous areas in which there are no other woodpecker species, sapsuckers play an important ecological role as they are the sole providers of nesting cavities for the myriad species that prefer and/or require them.


  • National Geographic Society. 1996. Field guide to the birds of North America, 2nd edition. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.