Date: 3/5/18 2:56 pm
From: Frank Fogarty via va-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: Re: [Va-bird] Red-naped Sapsucker
Hi Marlene,

1) No, sorry for confusion. We do not normally have Yellow-bellied
Sapsuckers in the Great Basin, only Red-naped and Red-breasted and their
(frequent) hybrids. I was stating this looks like a normal Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker from the eastern United States, such as those that winter in

2) When trying to identify a hybrid sapsucker, I would want to see at least
some intermediate features or characteristics of both species. While the
red nape patch is a feature of Red-naped, it has also been documented as a
feature in presumably pure Yellow-bellied (this is mentioned in Winkler et
al.'s " A Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World", Sibley, and Walters et
al.'s account in BNA). It's possible that the reddish nape feathers
represent some past or current gene flow between the two species, but I
think it's a leap to suggest a hybrid purely on that feature. Hybridization
can't be definitively ruled out without getting a DNA test, especially if
the event was multiple generations back and given how frequently these two
species hybridize, but my initial post was addressing the published
assertion that this bird is a Red-naped Sapsucker.

3) I don't have any handy, but they must exist somewhere on google.

4) That throat frame feature is often misunderstood, in terms of
distinguishing these two species. It's normal for RNSA to show some and
sometimes a lot of black around the red throat patch. The distinction for
RNSA, especially males, lies in whether there is substantial red bleeding
into the black frame and, especially, red extending all the way through at
any point to reach the white cheek patch. All of the birds shown in the
link have that feature, whereas Marlene's bird appears to have a complete
black frame with no visible red intruding.

All these ID points can be subtle in the field and difficult to
conclusively evaluate from a single photo or brief looks, and it's best to
focus on the suite of features rather than a single mark. If additional
photos exist, they could go a long way towards deciding between an unusual
YBSA and a potential hybrid.

As a potential first state record, was this bird submitted to VARCOM? I
would be curious to read the committee's thoughts on this bird, especially
if they had access to additional images and consulted some outside experts.


Frank Fogarty

On Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 1:48 PM, Marlene A Condon <marlenecondon...>

> Hi Frank,
> Thanks so much for writing. I didn't know we had California birders on
> here!!!!
> I have some questions, please.
> (1) When you say that "this bird looks good for an normal adult male
> Yellow-bellied Sapsucker", are you referring to the birds in the Great
> Basin where you have surveyed for years? I have to say that the bird in my
> photo does not look like any Yb Sap I've ever seen in the east. So, are
> you saying "my" bird is from the Great Basin?
> (2) What makes you say that a Yb Sap with a red nape is not necessarily a
> hybrid? Are you saying that the Yb Sap has genes for this characteristic?
> If so, could you please provide a reference for this statement?
> (3) I looked online at many photos of Yb Saps and not one showed a red
> nape. Could you please provide me with links to some pics?
> (4) Here's the link to the Cornell pic of a Red-naped male with black
> around the red. It's available to everyone (I'd thought it was in the
> pay-to-view section).
> I look forward to hearing from you!
> Sincerely,
> Marlene
> In a message dated 3/5/2018 1:00:28 PM US Eastern Standard Time,
> <fogartyfa...> writes:
> Hi all,
> As someone who has surveyed for Red-naped Sapsucker in the Great Basin for
> years, I can feel confident saying this bird looks good for an normal adult
> male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Red nape patches are uncommon in this
> species but by no means unheard of or a definitive indication of hybrid
> origin. I've seen this in the field on YBSA several times, and seen it in
> photos dozens of times. The few brownish feathers high on the back are not
> atypical in adults of any species and not necessarily indicative of this
> being a Second-Year bird.
> The two most important features for distinguishing these two species, the
> latter of which was not mentioned at all in the ID, are the throat/malar
> pattern and back pattern. This bird has a typical YBSA throat pattern, with
> the red throat completely encased by a thick, black border. I have never
> seen this in hundreds of RNSA I have surveyed, despite being on the look
> out for hybrids. As an aside, I checked the BNA media archive for this
> species and all of the birds there lack this feature and look fine for
> RNSA. The back pattern of this bird, while not seen straight on, is
> extensively white and messy which also supports a pure YBSA. RNSA typically
> has less white on the back, with the white markings clustered into two
> distinct, vertical lines.
> Best,
> Frank Fogarty
> Davis, CA
> On Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 9:15 AM, Marlene A Condon via va-bird <
> <va-bird...> wrote:
>> Although I wasn't asked how I made my identification, I guess I should at
>> least address what has been written here.
>> Although some books make mention of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers having a
>> red nape, I have to ask, "How many people out there have ever seen this?"
>> I have been paying attention to birds for as long as I can remember, while
>> growing up in the Northeast, living out west, and living in Virginia. Not
>> only have I never seen a YB Sap with a red nape, but as far as I can tell
>> from this list serve, neither has anyone else.
>> I might point out that the suggestion that a YB Sap has a red nape would
>> mean the bird must carry Red-naped genes in order to express that red nape,
>> which would make the bird a hybrid, not a YB Sap.
>> Regarding that black border: You can find many pictures online of birds
>> identified as Red-naped Sapsuckers that were taken out west by people who
>> live out west, and the birds show a fully black-enclosed red area. In
>> fact. if I recall correctly, I even found such a picture at the Cornell
>> Birds of North America write-up on Red-naped Sapsuckers (the version you
>> pay to access).
>> After looking at many, many photos, and looking up this bird and Yb Sap
>> in many, many books, I have to conclude that the I.D. characteristics are
>> not set in stone, as some folks claim them to be. In fact, considering
>> that all of these sapsuckers were once lumped together as one species, it's
>> surprising anyone would think the field marks are that definitive.
>> Sincerely,
>> Marlene
>> In a message dated 3/5/2018 9:40:02 AM US Eastern Standard Time,
>> <va-bird...> writes:
>> Marshall,
>> I also think yellow-bellied. They can occasionally have a red nape, and
>> the throat is completely bordered in black.
>> Marc Ribaudo
>> Marc Ribaudo
>> <moribaudo...>
>> On Monday, March 5, 2018 Marshall Faintich via va-bird <
>> <va-bird...> wrote:
>> Marlene Condon posted a link to a photo of the Red-naped Sapsucker that
>> she
>> saw in Albemarle County. Although I have seen and photographed 100+
>> Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, I have only seen one Red-naped Sapsucker, and
>> that was a year ago in Arizona (photos can been viewed on my Woodpecker
>> photo pages:
>> As I have only seen one Red-naped Sapsucker, my posting here is really
>> more
>> of a question for learning than disputing Marlene's identification. The
>> photo that she posted is clearly an interesting bird. When I first looked
>> at
>> it, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker jumped into my mind - perhaps the gizz, or
>> posture of the bird. But this bird clearly has red on its nape. So I
>> started
>> checking references. Although Sibley's hardback field guide does not state
>> the following, his electronic app states for Yellow-bellied, "nape,
>> usually
>> white, occasionally red." It also states that the throat of the
>> Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has "limited red with a complete black border" as
>> seen in Marlene's photo, whereas the Red-naped Sapsucker's throat has
>> "extensive red with incomplete black border," which is also the case in my
>> photos of this species taken in Arizona. Additionally, Sibley's hardback
>> guide states that the Red-naped has white bars in two rows on its back,
>> and
>> the Yellow-bellied has messy white bars on its back. I can't tell from the
>> side view on Marlene's photo what its back really looks like. I also can't
>> see its white wing bar, but that feature might be covered by breast
>> feathers.
>> So for those of you with expert knowledge of sapsuckers, is this bird a
>> Red-naped or a variation of a Yellow-bellied? Either way, it's an
>> interesting bird, and thanks to Marlene for posting the photo.
>> ___________________________
>> Marshall Faintich
>> Crozet, VA
>> <marshall...>
>> <>
>> In real life, the shortest distance between two points is never a straight
>> line, so you might as well enjoy the journey !!
>> ____________________________________________________________
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