Red Wolves and Sap-sucking Woodpeckers

Red wolves #1803 and #2062 seem to be getting along well. They’re frequently seen together with, so far, no observed conflicts. With mating season (Feb.) fast approaching, this behavior is promising.

Male (front) and female red wolves show signs of compatibility.

While standing and watching the wolves I noticed a cat-like meow and a gentle tap, tap, tap coming from high up in the trees inside the wolf enclosure, a yellow-bellied sapsucker at work.

These rather small sized woodpeckers drill evenly spaced wells into the bark of trees. The wells fill with sap, and you guessed it, the woodpecker sucks up the sap. As a bonus, the sap attracts insects which the birds also eat. And, if you’re interested in birds in general, the sap-filled wells attract other birds looking for a quick, energizing, sweet snack or protein rich insect goodie.

Sapsucker wells.

A quick way to distinguish sapsuckers from other woodpeckers of the same size is the vertical (relative to the bird’s typical attitude while perched on a tree trunk) white mark on its side (the mark is actually on the bird’s wing). This white mark is present in both adults and immature birds of both sexes.

Immature sapsucker (probably a female). Note two fresh wells with flowing sap to the bird’s left .
Same bird as above. White mark is obscured by fluffed up body feathers.
Adult male yellow-bellied sapsucker. Note red throat and yellow wash to undersides.
A better view of undersides of sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers don’t nest locally, although there is a small nesting population in our western mountains above about 4000 feet. They’re a northern species and on average most sapsuckers arrive here in October, departing in April. Some may arrive as early as September and linger into May.


2 responses to Red Wolves and Sap-sucking Woodpeckers

  1. Susan says:

    Just curious, any mating going on with the wolves?



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