Species Profile: Williamson’s Sapsucker

Williamson’s Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus thyroideus

Learn more about this species in the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America.

Introduction to the species

“This interesting species is so unique in the entire difference of coloration of the sexes, that for a long time they were considered and described as separate species. It remained for Mr. H. W. Henshaw, then attached as Naturalist to Lieut. George M. Wheeler’s expedition, engaged upon the geographical exploration of Colorado and New Mexico, in 1873, to establish their identity, he finding the supposed two species paired and breeding near Fort Garland, Col., in June of that year.-
-E. Bendire 1888

Williamson’s Sapsucker is a species of woodpecker that is one of the most sexually dichromatic in the world. It may be found breeding over the montane forests of western North America. It is also the sapsucker that is most reliant on mixed coniferous woods for food since this is where it forages most of the time throughout its habitat. It will also nest in conifers, although it is far more likely to burrow nest chambers in old aspens that have been weakened by heart-rot fungus or in snags that are made of aspen. Outside of the mating season, Williamson’s are occasionally seen eating at high altitudes amid the twisted pines near timberline or tapping juniper, pine, or exotic conifers. They may also be seen tapping exotic conifers.

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