Red-breasted SapsuckerSphyrapicus ruber

adult, Northern
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult female, Southern
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult, Northern
Paul Bannick/VIREO
Red-breasted Sapsucker



8-9" (20-23 cm). Smaller than a flicker. A shy woodpecker with long white wing patch; barred back; white rump. In adults, entire head, throat, and breast bright red, belly yellow. Immature dusky brown with light spots above, lighter below, with black and white checkered wings and tail.


Soft, slurred whee-ur or mew, like call of Red-naped Sapsucker.


Woodlands and their edges, groves of aspen and alder.


Breeds from southeastern Alaska and British Columbia south to coastal California. Winters in most of breeding range except interior British Columbia.


This mainly coastal sapsucker has habits similar to those of the Red-naped and Yellow-bellied sapsuckers. In drilling holes for sap, the Red-breasted will work around a tree trunk in horizontal lines or a checkerboard pattern. It hybridizes with the Red-naped in California and British Columbia.


4-6 white eggs in a cavity drilled in a tree.

Similar Species

adult male

Red-naped Sapsucker

8-9" (20-23 cm). A furtive woodpecker mottled with off-white and black. Male has red crown, nape patch, and throat, throat patch incompletely enclosed by black.

adult male

Williamson's Sapsucker

9 1/2" (24 cm). Male has black head, breast, and back, white facial stripes, bright red throat, and large white wing and rump patches.

adult male

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

8 1/2" (22 cm). A furtive woodpecker mottled with off-white and black; male has red crown and throat; female has only red crown. Both sexes dull yellowish below. Immatures dull brown.

adult male

Red-bellied Woodpecker

10" (25 cm). Barred black and white above; pale buff below and on face; sexes similar except that male has red crown and nape, female red nape only.


Red-headed Woodpecker

10" (25 cm). Whole head red, wings and tail bluish black, with large white patch on each wing; white underparts; white rump, conspicuous in flight.


Lewis's Woodpecker

10 1/2 -11 1/2" (27-29 cm). Smaller than a flicker. Metallic greenish black above; gray collar and breast; pinkish-red belly; dark red face framed with greenish black. Sexes alike.


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