Adult Red-naped Sapsucker Feeding its Chick at the Nesting Cavity

/, Clark County, Idaho, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Targhee National Forest/Adult Red-naped Sapsucker Feeding its Chick at the Nesting Cavity

Adult Red-naped Sapsucker feeding its chickAdult Red-naped Sapsucker feeding its chick – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 800, -1.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light

Two evenings ago I spent time observing and photographing the Red-naped Sapsuckers at their nesting cavity in an aspen in the Targhee National Forest. By photographing at a slightly different angle my exposure difficulties were not as evident as the evening I wrote about earlier this week.

I believe the exposure problems I had that night were that in the background I had the darkest shadows of the evergreens, aka a black hole, with the bright whites of the aspen trunk in high contrast against the blacks. I had never used -4.0 EV before and even that was not controlling the blown out whites. By having the sunlit, green boughs of the evergreen in the background instead of darkest shadows I could manage the whites through exposure compensation.

The photo I am sharing today is representative of what I have been hoping to capture of sapsuckers with the adults feeding their young with the heads of chicks sticking out. I have been hoping for these images since June of 2014 when I found some nesting House Wrens in the Targhee National Forest that were sharing that nesting cavity tree with a nesting pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers and it feels marvelous to have accomplished this goal.

This image shows the moment after the adult Red-naped Sapsucker had landed at the nesting cavity and the chick stuck its head out and how it placed its bill over the bill of the adult to take the food from its parent. I certainly would not call it a “tender” moment because the chick is quite aggressive while taking the food from the adult but I think it is interesting behavior and I enjoyed watching the interaction between the adult and chick.

I believe that there is only one chick in the nesting cavity because I never heard more than one chick call from the nest. Last evening the behavior of the chick had changed and it wasn’t calling non stop like it had been on previous evenings plus it was sticking its head further out of the opening than it has been and I believe that the chick will fledge and leave the nest very soon.

Although photographing the Red-naped Sapsuckers at the nesting cavity has been frustrating at times it has also been very rewarding to observe all the action of the sapsucker family.

Life is good.



  1. Jonathan Merage July 19, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    This picture is so adorable. I really like the story behind this shot. Thanks for sharing a lovely post.

  2. Elephants Child July 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Such a privilege for you (and us) to see. And yes, the background fades for me often. I have my eyes on the prize…

  3. April Olson July 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I have experienced a similar problem with very dark surroundings and bright whites of a Snowy Egret when photographing in a favorite lovely pond area at BRMBR . In order not to blow out the detail on the egret I had my EV at -5, that is as low as it goes! It made the background almost black but I really wanted the detail in the egret. It was frustrating but an interesting learning situation.

  4. Patty Chadwick July 14, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Great shot! Notice that the poor parent has to lean way back just to feed that over eager chick….

  5. Laura Culley July 14, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Just lovely! I’m with Liz Cormack on the background. I’ll notice it if there’s something really wrong going on, but overall, I’m so focused on the birds (raptors/critters) that it’s invisible to me. On the other hand, if the background is spectacular, like an amazing landscape, sunset/sunrise, sagebrush–something like that, I’ll definitely notice. Otherwise, not. I’m focused on feather patters or facial expressions, or feet–generally the overall bird/raptor/critter.

  6. Liz Cormack July 14, 2017 at 6:15 am

    OMGosh, what a fantastic capture. When I’m looking at your images of birds, the background is pretty non-existent.

  7. Laura July 14, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Beautiful photo and great story on capturing the image.

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