ABA Photo Quiz

ABA Online Bird Photo Quiz 152


With our quiz bird clinging to the side of a utility pole, we might consider starting among the woodpeckers for this month’s solution.  Once there, the extensive red on the throat and the longitudinal patch of white on the wing rule out all but the sapsuckers.  Thirty years ago, this would have been a very simple quiz, as the ABA area hosted just two sapsucker species, and Williamson’s is easily ruled out by the white spotting on the primaries in combination with the black inner part of the wing.  However, with the split of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker into three species, sapsucker ID became one of the more difficult quandaries, and an under-appreciated one.  Additionally, hybridization among the component species of the old, more-inclusive Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is not rare, creating even more headaches for birders.

Fortunately for us, hybrids are not valid subjects in this quiz (do I hear a chorus of “whew”s?), so we’ll move on to the various full species.  With no apparent red on either the lower white facial stripe or on the chest, we can safely rule out the Pacific species, Red-breasted Sapsucker.  Unfortunately, once we’re left with just Yellow-bellied and Red-naped, things get quite a bit stickier.

The first step in identifying a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (sensu lato = in the wide sense, thus considering the old, more-inclusive species from decades ago), is to determine what plumage it is wearing.  Individuals in juvenile plumage – no red on head, mottled brown body plumage – can be very difficult to ID to species.  So, we can be happy that our bird’s red throat and forehead (the latter of which we can just see a slice of) mean that the quiz bird is in adult or adult-like plumage, which makes our task quite a bit simpler.

The posture and position of the bird hide one of the better separators of these two very similar species.  The white barring on the black back of Red-naped is typically concentrated into two longitudinal patches, rather than spreading entirely across the back, as in Yellow-bellied.  We also cannot see the bird’s nape, though the presence or apparent absence of red in the nape is NOT definitive for either species if the sex of the individual is not determined, though an extensive, very bright red nape should rule out Yellow-bellied.  Another useful feature that we cannot see is the pattern of the central rectrices, which present as nearly even-width black-and-white barring on Red-naped, and blobby, nearly chevron-shaped white bands on Yellow-bellied.

So, what can we see on this month’s quiz bird that is useful in our endeavor to put a species name on the beast?  The features that we need to study in this situation are the throat and the black frame surrounding it.  We can immediately rule out female Yellow-bellied, as that sex sports an entirely white throat.  Female Red-napeds are usually depicted showing a throat patch that is half white (upper) and half red (lower), which would enable us to rule out that sex of that species for our quiz bird (which shows an entirely red throat).  However, a minority of female Red-napeds can show so little white on the chin that they appear entirely red-throated (see Leukering 2007).  At this point, our bird is either a Red-naped or a male Yellow-bellied.

Now, let’s tackle the throat frame.  Female Red-napeds and all adult-plumaged Yellow-bellieds exhibit a complete black frame entirely encircling the throat, whether the throat is red, white, or some combination of the two.  Our quiz bird has the red of the throat bleeding out and obscuring part of the black frame, so we have our solution.

I took this picture of a male Red-naped Sapsucker in Glacier Co., MT, on 23 June 2015.


The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the October 2015 Bird Photo Quiz —Red-naped Sapsucker:

  1. Michael Lester - Salt Lake City, UT
  2. Nathan Webb - Elba, AL
  3. Claude Auchu - La Pocatiere, Quebec
  4. Clifford Hawley - Sacramento, CA
  5. Todd Alfes - Kalamazoo, MI
  6. Alex Wiebe - Takoma Park, MD
  7. Jerald Reb - Dover, DE
  8. J. Kyron Hanson - Pittsfield, MA
  9. Steve Juhasz - Mission, BC
  10. Caroline Martin - Calgary, AB
  11. Isaiah Nugent - Bellingham, Wa
  12. Joshua Glant - Seattle, WA
  13. Willy Hutcheson - Concord, MA
  14. Brian Menker - Dayton,OH
  15. Tom Lally - Chicago, IL
  16. Scott Meyer - Richfield, MN
  17. Martin Sharp - AB
  18. Mike Vennard White - Sulphur Springs, Mt.
  19. Daroczi J. Szilard - Tg.-Mures, Romania
  20. Andrew Miller P - artridge, Kansas
  21. Stephen Joly - Kamloops, BC
  22. Dean Shoup - Golden, CO
  23. Nancy Hetrick - Albuquerque, NM
  24. Regan Goodyear - Bracebridge, Ontario
  25. David Goodyear - Bracebridge, Ontario
  26. Brien Weiner/Alan Klein - Long Island, New York
  27. William Rockey - Esparto, CA
  28. Celestyn Brozek - Albuquerque, NM
  29. Varick Cowell - Holden, MO
  30. Dan Cowell - Holden, MO
  31. Kyle Lima - Ellsworth, Maine
  32. Jason Waanders - Merion Station, PA
  33. Josh Southern - Holly Springs, NC
  34. A.Algazzali - Hercules, CA
  35. Robert Packard - Riverside, CA
  36. Julie Desmeules - Quebec, QC, Canada
  37. Timothy Swain - Concord, Massachusetts
  38. Danny Tipton - Albuquerque, NM
  39. Erica Rutherford - Oakland, CA
  40. Madalyn Yochem - Corpus Christi, TX
  41. Hiram Herrera - Chula Vista, CA
  42. Angus Pritchard - Decatur, GA
  43. Molly Zahn - Lawrence, KS
  44. Peter Lane - Québec, Canada
  45. Liam Tsao - Madison,Wisconsin
  46. Amber West - Albuquerque, NM
  47. Cathy Sheeter - Oradell, NJ
  48. Urs Geiser - Woodridge, IL
  49. Pam Myers - Marysville, WA
  50. Brennan Obermayer - Peterborough, ON
  51. Bridget Spencer - Vancouver, BC
  52. Sam Ewing - Gainesville, Florida
  53. Linda Fink - Grand Ronde, OR
  54. Kolby Olson - Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  55. Karl Erich Mayer - Tawas City, Michigan
  56. Tom Ford-Hutchinson - Irvine, CA
  57. Abbie Valine - Carlton, MN
  58. Darrel Wilder - Sun Lakes, AZ
  59. Patty McKelvey - Sheffield Village, Ohio
  60. Pete Fenner - East Peoria, IL
  61. Madeline Alfieri - Hammondsport, NY
  62. Nina Sitra - Sugar Land, TX
  63. Sarah Bell - Herndon, KY
  64. Eric Heisey - Granger, WA
  65. Jack Holloway - Mesa, AZ
  66. Jared Parks - Church Hill, MD
  67. Alan Bowman - Madisonville, LA
  68. Terri Everett - Big Rapids, MI
  69. Linda Pittman - Wilton, CA
  70. Macsen Elkouh - Enfield, New Hampshire
  71. Rosemaary Paul - Carbondale
  72. George Cresswell - Colorado Springs, CO
  73. Tom Ford-Hutchinson - Irvine, CA
  74. Adrian Burke - New York, New York
  75. Ryan Zucker - New York, NY
  76. Andre Moncrieff - Baton Rouge, LA
  77. Jackie Allison - Nipomo, California
  78. Amber West - Albuquerque, NM
  79. Tracy Mullen - Seattle, WA
  80. John Tramontano - Warwick, Pa.
  81. Kevin Hill - Lynnwood, WA
  82. Joshua Smith - New River, AZ
  83. Lee Friedman - Berkeley
  84. Andrew Keaveney - Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  85. Dustin Holschuh - Peoria,Illinois
  86. Kristen Martyn - Richmond Hill, ON
  87. Greg Zupansic - Eugene, Oregon
  88. Georgia Conti Patzcuaro - Michoacan, Mexico
  89. Daniel Waterman - Yorktown, VA
  90. Gary Koehn - Colorado Springs, Colorado
  91. Beko Binder - Madison, WI
  92. Ed Harper - Carmichael, CA
  93. Nolan Keyes - Berrien Springs, Michigan
  94. Ian Brandenburg - Bixby, OK
  95. Monica Berger - Brooklyn, NY
  96. Bryan Sharp - Hilliard, Ohio
  97. Max Rabinowitz - Anchorage
  98. Isaac - Kamloops, BC

How Did You Compare?

As stated in the quiz rules, answers must consist simply of the Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.

The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker


The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.