Birds and More | All Blogs

Do Sapsuckers Suck?

By Nic.Korte

So what is the answer to this important question?  Maybe if you are a non-birder, you wonder if such creatures even exist.  Well, the Red-naped Sapsucker is one of the most common birds in our aspen forests—also foraging in the oaks below and the conifers above.  This is a very good time of the year to see them because they are especially active forming mating pairs and nesting.

  These handsome members of the woodpecker family were named for their foraging strategy, which consists of drilling neat horizontal rows of holes in tree trunks and then returning to those holes later to feed on the running sap and the insects attracted to it. The persistent and conspicuous calls and drumming of Red-naped Sapsuckers are commonly heard in early spring.  Later in the summer, when insects are abundant, I’ve seen them sally into the air like flycatchers—a bit incongruous for their body type, but they get the job done.
  Red-naped Sapsuckers usually nest in healthy aspen trees and a new cavity is excavated almost every year—leaving the old cavity for other birds such as house wrens, tree swallows, violet-green swallows and white-breasted nuthatches.  Indeed, the sapsuckers are vitally important for most of these other birds that do not have the ability to make a cavity. 


So, is there anything all that important in knowing about sapsuckers and whether they suck? What is important is knowing and learning about what is going on in the outdoors.  I have seen surveys that indicated that of all wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, birdwatchers were the most knowledgeable.  Why would that be? Well, to see a wide range of birds one has to know where they live and how they live.  You are not likely to find a Red-naped Sapsucker on top of Grand Mesa or on the Devil’s Kitchen Trail in the Colorado National Monument—although other types of woodpeckers are present.  Birders scatter into all habitats.  And, they often have to travel to do it—with great economic impact. One study put that impact at more than 85 billion dollars annually and credits birders with supporting almost 900,000 jobs (  This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society.  Send questions/comments to]To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at and “like” us on Facebook!]


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