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Art by Barry Kent MacKay

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Art by Barry Kent MacKay

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus)
(Artwork - 023) Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus)

This is a detail (somewhat altered to block out conflicting figures) from a large, composite painting I did illustrating the sapsuckers, a genus (Sphyrapicus) of woodpeckers mostly endemic to North America, including, as migrants, Mexico and the northern West Indies The species shown here, the Yellow-bellied, has a very wide range, from the Yukon east as far as Newfoundland and south, as a breeding species, into the northern U.S.   They migrate south in the fall, and return in April, many of then nesting in northern boreal forests.  

Sapsuckers are famous for drilling rows of holes in sap-bearing trees, and then eating the sap.  They don’t “suck” it, but dab it with their long tongues which have modified tips, like miniature brushes, that the sap adheres to.  They will also sometimes visit feeders with sugar water set up for hummingbirds and orioles.  

They are extremely variable in their pattern.  In this painting I have shown an immature female (top), an adult male in breeding plumage (left) and an adult female in breeding plumage (right).   The adult female I used as a model had very little red on top of her head; some have quite a bit more, some have none.   In all plumages there is a quite large white wing patch, usually easy to see on the closed wing, and conspicuous in flight. Acrylic on compressed hardboard.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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