April 25, 2018
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Opening a new window on yellow-bellied sapsuckers


“Get off my window, you ruffian!” I shouted, as I ran to my window as fast as possible. A male yellow-bellied sapsucker was drumming there. It was so loud, I was afraid the bird might break the window.

He was perched on the window sash and pecking on the upper pane. I banged on the pane from the inside and he quickly flew away. What a relief!

I’ve had sapsuckers drumming on nearby trees, on telephone poles and on metal signs, but never on a window.

Sapsuckers are woodpeckers, and woodpeckers drum. That is, they bang on wood. They do that to communicate, just as people do.

Male and female woodpeckers both drum — to let others of their species know about their territory, and their availability.

There are four sapsucker species across the country, and only one in Maine — the yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Sapsuckers are adapted to lap out sap from trees with their brush-like tongues. First, a sapsucker will drill a series of small holes in the bark of trees, especially birch, apple and hemlock trees.

Then the sapsucker comes by again and laps up the tree’s sap with its well-adapted tongue. It also snaps up any insects that might be stuck to the sap — a good way to live, for a sapsucker.

Sapsuckers usually make their nesting holes in poplar trees because poplars have soft wood easily drilled. The hole is often only 1¼ inches wide; it looks quite small when comparing it to the sapsucker itself.

I’ve always thought that a male yellow-bellied sapsucker was a very handsome woodpecker, with his patches of bright scarlet on his crown and under his throat, all outlined with bold streaks of black and white.

But the last thing I need is a broken window. Luckily, this sapsucker has not returned to my window to drum.

If you’d like to learn about bird songs and how to identify them, plan to attend “Birding By Ear,” presented by Bob Duchesne at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at the Fields Pond Audubon Center, 216 Fields Pond Road, Holden. Admission is $6 and benefits the center.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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