Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are named for their behavior of drilling small holes in trees then drinking the sap that runs into the wells. They get most of their food that way but also feed on insects they find under tree bark.
I’ve seen them peck at bark, mostly on the rough-barked trees and was surprised to see this one bobbing into a tree cavity. He was just about disappearing from my view as he reached in.
I didn’t see what, if anything, the Sapsucker was finding, but he kept at it for longer than I watched.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers visually blend into the surface of the rough-barked trees. These two images were taken in different places over a month apart.
I heard the tat-tat-tat of pecking at the bark first, then watched for the flash of red to help me spot them. Sapsuckers tend to spiral around the tree looking for food, sometimes at a pretty fast pace leaving the photographer to guess where they will pop back around.
This dead tree is a favorite with a number of woodpeckers, including a Red-bellied Woodpecker pair that was making a nest that I photographed last month.
While I was checking in on that activity on a recent visit a Red-bellied Woodpecker was nearly camouflaged high in the tree along with what I think was a recently fledged family of Downy Woodpeckers. They were a long way up and I couldn’t get an angle for a good image but did catch this one in flight.
Not far from where I saw a Pileated Woodpecker wreaking havoc on the boardwalk to the swamp last week I heard the impressive tat-tat-tat again. This youngster was frozen in place in a nearby tree and clearly not the origin of the percussion.
He flew a little higher just as I spotted the adult again assaulting the underside of the boardwalk railing.
The adult flew up to the fledgling and started feeding him some regurgitated material.
The chick stuck to his spot and the adult flew off and returned several times, daintily offering the juvenile food.
The feeding process was very calm, especially compared to the egrets and herons I had just been watching.
Over and over this Red-bellied Woodpecker peeked out the hole then ducked back in.
Finally he came out and inspected a different hole in the same tree.
Back to hole number one.
Then the chips began to fly.
The light colored feathers on this woodpecker are much darker grey than others I have seen. I saw the pair at this same tree the week before and thought their color was different, but couldn’t be sure as the light was poor. Zoom in on the image below to see his face and body feathers.