Date: 3/5/18 3:17 pm
From: Eric Kershner via va-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: Re: [Va-bird] Red-naped Sapsucker
Thought I would jump in, even if Marlene isn't interested in the discussion anymore. I think others can learn a lot from this dialogue between birders. This is how we as a community learn about our passion, share knowledge, and learn about exciting identification challenges.

I agree with a lot of what Marlene says about needing more than one image to make a conclusion. This is an interesting bird and a great photograph. I won't provide a definitive id...because it is such an interesting bird. At first glance it does seem to have more YBSA traits than RNSA (messy back - from what can be seen, and the black framing of the throat).

But what I wanted to add here is the notion that this bird is a hybrid YBSA just because of the red on the nape. I think there is some confusion that YBSA that occasionally shows red on the nape does not indicate hybridization. A more plausible explanation is that the a "red naped" YBSA is one demonstrating a recessive trait for that species gene. Many species of woodpeckers show red napes and certainly "red naped" woodpeckers are not some hybrid with RNSA. The simple genetics answer is that red napes is a gene that can either be dominant or recessive. Those species that regularly show red napes (Downy, Hairy, Nuttall's, etc) the gene is likely to be dominant and when the red nape color is rare it is recessive.

Anyway - truly and interesting bird.


Eric Kershner
South Riding, VA
On Mon, 3/5/18, Marlene A Condon via va-bird <va-bird...> wrote:

Subject: Re: [Va-bird] Red-naped Sapsucker
To: <sheagordontiller...>
Cc: <va-bird...>
Date: Monday, March 5, 2018, 5:59 PM

Hi Shea,
I haven't time to discuss your
comments. This thread is taking up too much of my time (I
have an article I need to get written and should be working
on it) so let me just say this:
It would be helpful for folks to remember that
they should not jump to conclusions about how someone makes
an I.D.   My photo wasn't put out there as something to
argue about.  It was a nice pic of a bird I'd
identified based upon dozens of photos taken here, so I used
it for my column.  I shared it with folks only because I
thought folks would find it of interest. 
I never expected people to
be summarily discounting my I.D. when they can't even
see every side of the bird in the picture published.  I
HAVE seen every side of this bird, but everyone
participating on this thread seems to think they can tell
more than I from this one photo!  Why is that? I didn't
say that was my only photo, yet people have assumed it is.
 And the conversation actually began as if I wasn't
even a part of the situation!!!! 
To be honest, this whole discussion seems very
odd to me, and I really can't spend more time on it.
I've taken too much time already to provide far more
info than I realized I'd end up having to do by sharing
my sighting.  Folks can call the bird what they wish, but
the reality is that they are making a call based upon one
photo only, which seems quite presumptuous.       
In a
message dated 3/5/2018 5:27:09 PM US Eastern Standard Time,

Marlene. As others have said, an interesting bird.
While I'll leave it to
the real sapsucker experts like Frank to make a call on
something that falls in the field of their years of
expertise, I just thought it would be helpful to remember
that there can be very strange variants of a bird without
the species being different. I'd seen only typical
mallards for years, of course even before I got into
birding, and then this past fall I bumped into one wild
leucistic individual. Even with leucistic individuals being
quite regular, it took a long time for me to happen into
one. With some variations that are far rarer, it could take
much longer for an observer to find one even in the
species' normal territory. Nonetheless, I think that the
possibility is important to consider when also weighing the
equally rare possibility of a vagrant bird. Many birders
will typically look at the possibility of an odd, in-species
variation when also looking at the option of a vagrant
bird. Quite often the possibility ends up being a reality
in the eyes of more seasoned birders than myself who can
more confidently make a nuanced ID call like this one.
Great birding,

On Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 4:48 PM, Marlene A
Condon via va-bird <va-bird...>
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
(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!
a message dated 3/5/2018 1:00:28 PM US Eastern Standard
Time, <fogartyfa...>

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. 

Frank Fogarty
Davis, CA

Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 9:15 AM, Marlene A Condon via va-bird
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.


 In a message
dated 3/5/2018 9:40:02 AM US Eastern Standard Time, <va-bird...>

 I also think
yellow-bellied. They can occasionally have a red nape, and
the throat is completely bordered in black.

 Marc Ribaudo

 Marc Ribaudo

 On Monday, March 5, 2018
Marshall Faintich via va-bird <va-bird...>
 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+
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
 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"
 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
 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
 see its white wing bar, but
that feature might be covered by breast


 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


 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


 *** You are subscribed to
va-bird as <moribaudo...>
If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences
please visit
*** You are subscribed to va-bird
If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences
please visit

 *** You are
subscribed to va-bird as <fogartyfa...>
If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences
please visit
*** You are subscribed to va-bird
as <sheagordontiller...>
If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences
please visit
*** You are subscribed to va-bird as
If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences
please visit
*** You are subscribed to va-bird as <lists...> If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences please visit ***
Join us on Facebook!