Wanted to chime in from afar (currently) on the Morrison sapsucker in question. I’m hoping the bird is still around when we get back to Colorado in a couple of weeks and can run over to Morrison to check it out in the flesh to be certain, but in the meantime I believe there is enough information shown on Diane’s excellent photos to form an opinion. As a member of the Idaho RBC, we get A LOT of “Red-breasted” Sapsucker submissions and most (+/- 75%) go into several rounds of debate due to their ambiguity. Many are hybrids and are closer to the “Southern” Red-breasteds (S.r.daggetti) in appearance, like this guy, so obviously garner most of the discussion. However, this particular bird would likely not pass as a “pure” Red-breasted primarily based on the reasons Chris laid out below (ie; too much white behind eye, relatively darkish auricular, as well as darker shade of the nape), but of concern to me is the darkening seen on the lower portion of the red breast (red also somewhat restricted in extent for a “pure” bird), as well as the extent and length of white in the malar. It’s too bad we can’t see the back in her photos as I suspect it would also show too much pale (whitish vs yellow-green) marking, though this does seem to show somewhat in her first photo lateral to the white covert patch.
So, I also believe the bird is a hybrid R-b X R-n Sapsucker which in no way diminishes its awesomeness as a find in Colorado. In many respects, I view the hybrids we stumble across from time-to-time to be much more fascinating than pure forms as they make you think deeper about what you’ve encountered and their specific origin story. My two bits.
Happy New Year,
Currently Coeur d’Alene, ID
From: <cobirds...> <cobirds...> On Behalf Of Scott Somershoe
Sent: Tuesday, January 5, 2021 7:47 PM
To: Colorado Birds <cobirds...>
Subject: [cobirds] The Morrison hybrid Sapsucker
I'm posting for Steve Mlodinow as his emails to CO-Birds are bouncing for some reason (I thought 2020 was over?). :)
Scott Somershoe, Littleton CO
The Morrison sapsucker is the same one that was found nearby in November. At that time, I saw it along with Chris Wood, and we both felt strongly that it was a Red-naped x Red-breasted Sapsucker. It is quite similar to hybrids that I saw in the Pacific Northwest (where the southern race of RB Sapsucker is not a concern).
From Chris Wood:
I think the single best thing to look for is the area behind the eye and eyeline. Typically there is no white to a very small white spot behind the eye. The extreme tends to be a small white spot with a very narrow line continuing – this narrow line is narrower than the white spot. This is quite different from the broader white line like you see on this bird, which is as wide as the white spot behind the eye. This helps offset the dark cheek even more than you pure RB. This is subtle, but I think noticeable when you look for it. I’ve not seen this shown by a pure Red-breasted. There is quite a bit of variation here, but I think if you look at the images again, you will see what I’m talking about. Also note the dark nape, which is typical of hybrids. This varies by the position of the head, and you often don’t see it until the head is turned at the correct angle.
Also, it took but a quick look at Macaulay Library to ferret out the following hybrids that look rather similar to the Morrison bird