Family Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Least Concern

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)


French: Pic maculé German: Gelbbauch-Saftlecker Spanish: Chupasavia norteño

Picus varius


, 1766,

North America = South Carolina, USA


Closely related to S. nuchalis and S. ruber; sometimes treated as conspecific with former, interbreeding with it to limited extent in SW Canada (Alberta), and in the past sometimes considered conspecific also with latter, the two more rarely hybridizing where ranges overlap. Birds from S Appalachian Mts sometimes separated as race appalachiensis on basis of slightly darker plumage and marginally smaller size, but considerable overlap with N populations and subspecific recognition considered unwarranted. Monotypic.


E Alaska, S Yukon, SW Northwest Territories and NE British Columbia E across Canada to NC Ontario and Newfoundland, and S to C Alberta and C & E USA (to E South Dakota, N Iowa and Appalachians). Winters SE USA (S from about S Kansas, S Ohio and Connecticut) S to Panama.

Descriptive notes

c. 19–21 cm; 35–62 g, mean 50·3 g. Male has bright red (exceptionally, yellow) forehead and crown bordered black, broader black across hindcrown, white... read more


Nasal, cat-like, single or grouped squeals, “neaaah”, “owee-owee”, “... read more


When breeding, inhabits deciduous and mixed coniferous forests; presence of aspen (Populus... read more

Food and feeding

Arthopods, especially beetles and their larvae, ants and their brood, also Lepidoptera, and dragonflies (Odonata); also large quantities of... read more


Apr–Jul. Monogamous; solitary. Nest excavated mostly by male, taking c. 15–28 days, some further excavation by both sexes after... read more


Migratory, winters well S of breeding range. Leaves breeding areas from late Aug, sometimes not... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to common throughout range; reasonably common, but often inconspicuous, on non-breeding grounds. Has disappeared from... read more

Recommended citation

Winkler, H., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).