ARTISTS AND  BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis 

"Dressed for Dinner... of Fine Wines and Bugs"

Red-naped Sapsucker

       While traveling up the road to Kolob Reservoir, our "birding group" stopped to look at the water damage to an old bridge, previously used on the same road. The flood waters over-topped the old bridge and left debris of mud, sticks, and small trees over, under, and all along the riverís path. Wow! It was a huge flood to do so much damage. The area was right below Sunset Ranch, and up canyon from Virgin, Utah. Then, right in the midst of this red-naped sapsuckervista of natureís wrath came a bird down canyon, following the creek, and settled in a Cottonwood tree right below us, in plain sight. It was a Red-naped Sapsucker, one of the most beautiful woodpeckers in southern Utah. The bird assumed an almost classic stance of display with his head upright, tail pressed against the tree, and in perfect viewing. Each of us were able to take the time to fix image on this magnificent feathered bird...... before he flew off. This was a sighting that makes birding a great sport.

      The Red-naped Sapsucker drills holes horizontally in trees, making sap wells. Eventually the sap oozes out, which attracts insects, and then the bird returns, dressed for dinner, of a rich diet of sap and insects. Ummmmmm. This habit of making sap wells in fruit trees has earned him a bad reputation with the fruit and nut farmers. However, the Red-naped has a fan-club following of other species, that use the same sap wells as a food supply. The Red-naped Sapsucker is the common member of the sapsucker group in the Rocky Mountains. It interbreeds with the Yellow-bellied at the eastern edge of its breeding range and with the Red-breasted to the west. All three birds were formerly considered a single specie. The resulting hybrids are difficult to identify.

       Brenda Rusnell has used pastels to paint the Red-naped Sapsucker. Thank you Brenda for sharing this beautiful bird with us. If you have questions about birds, want to talk about birds, or would like to share an experience with birds, call Marilyn Davis, 435 673-0996.

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