The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a mid-sized woodpecker, at 18 to 22 cm (7.1 to 8.7 in) in length, 34 to 40 cm (13 to 16 in) in wingspan and weighing from 40 to 63 g. Adults are black on the back and wings with white bars; they have a black head with white lines down the side and a red forehead and crown, a yellow breast and upper belly, a white lower belly and rump and a black tail with a white central bar. Adult males have a red throat; females have a white throat. The Red-naped Sapsucker is similar but has a red nape (back of the head). The Hairy Woodpecker has no red on the crown or throat and has blacker back.

Habitat and Distribution

The breeding habitat of this bird is forested areas across Canada, eastern Alaska and the northeastern United States. They prefer young, mainly deciduous forests. There is also a disjunct population found in high elevations of the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. These birds migrate to the south eastern United States, West Indies and Central America, leaving their summer range.


They drill holes in trees and eat the sap and insects drawn to it. They may also pick insects from tree trunks or catch them in flight. They also eat fruit and berries.


Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers nest in a large cavity excavated in a deciduous tree, often choosing one weakened by disease; the same site may be used for several years. Both the male and the female work in making the nest, where five or seven white eggs are well concealed. Both birds share in hatching.

Calls and Songs

They drum (i.e produce a winnowing sound) and give a cat-like call in spring to declare ownership of territory.