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What happens when two birds of different species get together and make a nest? Hybridization. According to an article by Kim Romain-Bondi in North Central Washington Audubon Society’s newsletter, The Wild Phlox, “these two species are sympatric, meaning that during the evolution process, they became two new species while inhabiting the same geographic region. Generally speaking in Washington, the Red-breasted live on the west side, the Red-naped on the east side of the Cascades……. These two species of sapsuckers are known to hybridize in south-central Oregon, northeastern California, along the California-Nevada border, and in southern Nevada.”

Kim has located a nest near one of the trails on the grounds of the North Cascades Basecamp which she and her husband own. It includes a male Red-breasted Sapsucker and female Red-naped Sapsucker. I was lucky enough to have her show me the nest in a water birch tree. We observed both birds going to and from the nest, catching bugs and visiting sap wells before returning to feed young. On one departure I observed that the male was carrying a fecal sack. These birds like to keep their nest tidy.

Now I don’t do a lot of bird photography. I love to bird and I love to make images however it’s often challenging for me to both well. I lack the really long telephoto lenses to get the extreme sharp close-ups so my bird images are mostly for documenting a particularly striking or unusual bird or one that is otherwise noteworthy. I thought this situation was noteworthy and worth recording.

Red-naped Sapsucker female

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Red-breasted Sapsucker male

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The landing – feet first

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They always looked out of the cavity in all directions before exiting.

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Sapsuckers make ‘wells’ in trees to get to the sap. They are evenly spaced in neat rows and the birds return to them year after year. Hummingbirds will also sip from the sap wells. I saw a Black-chinned hummingbird at this tree.

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Yesterday, other birders observed that the birds were catching bugs; taking them to the sap wells and dipping the bugs before taking them to the youngsters in the nest. Sort of like coating cold cereal with sugar so the kids will eat it.

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Here is the female rocketing out of the hole.

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And here, the male is carrying a fecal sack away from the nest.

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And there he goes!

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3 Comments

  1. Exquisite photography! Just wonderful documentation and photography; and aren’t the colors vibrant? Thank you so much; I’ve learned a lot from this.

  2. When did you take these photos? Was it before we visited the nest Sunday the 23rd?


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