At first glance, sapsuckers seem straightforward to identify. There are only four species, and one species looks very different from the others. But in real life, many sapsuckers don’t look as distinctive as the illustrations found in field guides. This not only because of individual variation, but also because of hybridization. Intermediate individuals occur frequently enough that the taxonomy has been disputed and revised several times, and three of the four currently-recognized species were considered conspecific by the AOU until 1983.
Join us for a look at Sapsucker identification as we try to sort out the various species, not only by plumage characteristics but by age, sex, status and distribution.
Mark has been birding in the Los Angeles area since the early 2000s and he leads local field trips when we are not in the midst of a global pandemic. Mark is a Research Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at Caltech, where he specializes in the physics of black holes and gravitational waves.
A good reference on sapsucker hybrids and sapsucker id in general can be found in Stephen Shunk’s article in Birding, May/June 2005
Here is a video of the talk: