Intruding Red-naped Sapsucker – Or just a Curious Bird?

/, Clark County, Idaho, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Targhee National Forest/Intruding Red-naped Sapsucker – Or just a Curious Bird?

Male Red-naped Sapsucker on a branchMale Red-naped Sapsucker on a branch – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 800, -1.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

This male Red-naped Sapsucker was photographed on the third evening I spent observing and taking images of the nesting cavity and birds in the Targhee National Forest of Idaho a few weeks ago and although I enjoyed getting a nice frontal view of him perched on a horizontal branch I thought there was something interesting about him and his behavior.

I do not believe that this bird was one of the pair of adult Red-naped Sapsuckers I photographed feeding the chick in the nesting cavity, his bib and breast markings were different from the other adult birds. There are both red and yellow feathers mixed into the black bib which I did not see in the bibs of the other adult birds coming into the nesting cavity.

What I thought was interesting was this sapsuckers behavior at the nesting cavity tree and the lack of response from the chick inside the cavity. When this Red-naped Sapsucker flew in it landed on the branch you see it photographed on which was above the cavity where the chick was located, it did not go directly to the cavity where the chick was and it did not arrive with prey in its bill. When it did land of the trunk of the nesting cavity tree it checked out one of the empty cavities on the aspen before it made its way to the one that had the chick in it.

Normally when the chick knew its parents were at the cavity it was rather noisy while it begged for food but when this male was at the opening of the cavity the chick was not noisy, in fact I thought it was much quieter than normal. This sapsucker just peeked into the cavity with the chick in it briefly before it turned and flew down the tree to check out another empty nesting cavity lower on the aspen trunk. After it spent a few seconds there it flew up to a high branch in the aspen before flying away. The parents of the chick never once went to the empty cavities in the tree.

I don’t know if this male Red-naped Sapsucker was attempting to intrude into the territory of the adults using this tree for their nest, if this sapsucker was part of a pair that were looking to renest after losing their first brood or if this sapsucker was just curious about this particular aspen but I found his behavior interesting while he visited the tree that had the nest cavity of the pair with the chick.

Birds make life interesting, life is good.



  1. Elephants Child July 29, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Fascinating. Curiosity is perhaps my defining characteristic so I can so understand the desire to ‘look/see’. But suspect it was lucky the parents weren’t around.

  2. M. Bruce July 29, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Fascinating story and great photo!

  3. Laura Culley July 29, 2017 at 9:17 am

    The behavior of birds (raptors and critters) are continually fascinating. There are so many things we don’t really know about their behavior, but residing in the question is just plain fun! It’s good not to know everything 🙂 That said, what a beautiful image. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Porcupine July 29, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Maybe he hatched out of that cavity last year?

  5. April Olson July 29, 2017 at 7:45 am

    A bachelor house shopping for next year, hoping to impress the women.

  6. Patty Chadwick July 29, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Interesting…wonder if he had ever lived in that cavity…if he was looking for a good nesting site…or if he was just curious. Some birds seem more curious than others…

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