Red-naped Sapsucker, Male

Red-naped Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus nuchalis) are uncommon winter visitors to oak woodlands and lowland areas with large trees here in southern Arizona.

Male Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)

My dad and I spotted several Red-naped Sapsuckers in the large trees dotting the golf course at Tucson Country Club on Christmas Day. We had been standing under a tree watching some ducks in a nearby pond when this male Red-naped Sapsucker flew up and landed right over our heads. Since he seemed to be volunteering to have his picture taken, we happily obliged.

Red-naped Sapsuckers are medium-sized, black and white woodpeckers with a broad, white stripe along the edge of the wings, a red crown and nape of the neck, and white stripes over and under the eyes. Male Red-naped Sapsuckers have a solid red throat, while the females have white on the upper part of the throat and red on the lower part of the throat.

Despite their name, Red-naped Sapsuckers do not suck sap, instead they drill sap holes in trees and then lap up the oozing sap with their brushy tongues. They also feed on insects (usually those attracted to their sap wells) and on fruit and other plant matter.