17-B-2016 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
6-1
2ND ROUND
6-1
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Larry Arnold
OTHER OBSERVERS
Missy was there, saw the bird flying away, but no field marks per se
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
In Clark County, travelling E along Kilgore-Yale Rd, a mile or so west of the west end of Sheridan Res, elevation 6200 ft +/-
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Overall, a wet grassland-shrubland area with wooded patches (deciduous and conifer), many creeks, marshy areas, rivulets from spring runoff, also some scattered sage and other upland shrubs we had just passed through. We were presently in a broad east/west valley of meadowland transitioning into mixed woodland with areas of dense conifer both north and south of us. We were on an unpaved road, which to us means a less disturbed area than often accompanies a paved road, and there were only a few side roads accessing contiguous areas. There was basically no traffic through here today. =)
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
60F, mostly sunny, calm to light breeze, virtually no ambient noise.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, during the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
We carry several field guides with us on our road trips, but usually check Sibley first, like immediately. Other references I checked later include Kaufman's "edited" photos (Focus Guide, 2000), and Kaufman's discussion of the “YBSA Complex” and of their hybrids (Advanced Birding, RTP Field Guides, 1990, pp 173-79)
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
First looks revealed RN/YB type sapsucker (10x bins, from 25-30 ft away), with mottled back and flanks, striped face, long white wing patch, red on crown bordered by black, thence (proceeding down around the face to the chin) white, then black thru the eye, white, black, then white chin, i.e., the throat was white, bordered by a black “frame” with no red on the lower chin. In fact, I saw no red below the eye or bill, and none on the nape, so this bird appeared to be an adult female YB per Sibley's illustrations (2nd edition, 2014, pg 313). Again, the only red on this bird was on the crown. I would sketch this bird for y’all if I had successfully completed Dr. Edson Fichter’s ISU course in illustrating wildlife! ;-)
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Bird flew into a smallish deciduous tree that had not completely leafed out, in clear view 25-30 ft away for a few moments, then off it flew to the NE, did not see it stop again.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
I had an immediate impression or “giss” of a sapsucker with a red crown; I then noted a wholly white chin boxed by black... field guides confirmed my suspicion this was not a RN, that it was an adult female YB.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
To my eyes, not many woodpecker sp are similar in general appearance to sapsuckers (striped face and mottled/barred back), with maybe these exceptions: Ladder-backed and Nuttall’s (both of which I’ve seen several times within their expected ranges). The only red on this bird was limited to the crown, which eliminates RB and all of its forms and hybrids. The white chin, boxed in black, eliminates both genders of adult RN, as well as male YB. Kaufman (Advanced Birding, 1990) discusses each of the potential crosses/hybrids in the “YBSA Complex,” and he suggests that the least problematic field identification is adult female YB.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
Experience with the “YBSA Complex” (Kaufman’s term, 1990):

YB: good portion of its US range, most seasons of the year (1998-2016, most recently in S FL during January, at seven locations), Mexico (six birding trips during 2002-07), Maritime Canada (2003), Cuba (2011), and Guatemala (2011).

RN: pretty much throughout its range and southward into W Mexico (1994 onward).

RB: western US (WA, OR, CA, ID, 2003-16).
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
20+ years in N and S America. Passive interest began in the 70’s (Mexico and UK); focus on hummingbirds began in the 80’s (western US); broadening interest in the 90’s (mainland US, British Columbia, Alaska, Europe).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
[Observation] entered into eBird within 24 hrs

Discussion: I’m basically discussing sapsuckers in the following, so I’ll use shorthand: YB for Yellow-bellied, RN for Red-naped, and RB for Red-breasted. I am not seeing very many accepted reports of YB in Idaho, e.g., see last page of this report, copied from the IBRC link: http://www.idahobirds.net/ibrc/reviewspecies/dove_woodpeckers.html#YBSA

The present sighting is an apparent “outlier” in terms of expected season, but maybe not? In saying this, I’m referring to old discussions on a few western US birding listservs, wherein late fall, winter, and early spring months were a more likely time of year for YB, but I don’t recall the actual data, e.g., which states, number of observations of YB vs. wintering RN. Hope this makes sense. A quick look at current eBird bar graphs reveals few accepted reports, which can be summarized by state and months like this: ID: Sep-Feb, WY: Sep-Oct, UT: Oct-Mar, and MT: Apr-Oct, for what it’s worth.

IBRC report of YBSA May 2016

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – (Sphyrapicus varius) (cut/paste from IBRC web page)

28 December 1993 – Saint Maries, Benewah County, Latilong 2 – Dan Svingen – AFN48(2):229
Rare Bird Report #: 10-A-93
Voting: 6-0- (Idaho’s 1st – past Sapsuckers (now Red-naped and Yellow-bellied) have been grouped together)
8 October 1994 – Deer Flat NWR, Canyon County, Latilong 17 – John Gatchet
Rare Bird Report #: 5-A-94
Voting: 5-1
24 September 1998 – Jacobs Ladder Creek, Valley County, Latilong 11 – Aaron Utz
Rare Bird Report #: 4-B-99
Voting: 1-6 1st Round
Voting: 0-7 2nd ound (19 Nov 2009)
29 September 2001 – Idaho Bird observatory Lucky Peak, Ada County, Latilong 17, Ryan Brady and Jay Carlisle – NAB56(1):75 – immature bird
Rare Bird Report #: 15-B-01
Voting: 6-1 1st Round
Voting: 7-0 2nd Round (19 Nov 2009)
7 February 2002 – Clear Lake, near Buhl, Kent Fothergill
Rare Bird Report #: 1-B-02
Voting: 7-0
30 September 2004 – Island Park area (Warm Spring) , Fremont County, Latilong 16 – Cliff Weisse, Doug Gibson Rare Bird Report #: 9-B-04
Voting: 5-2
Voting: 5-2
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Description is convincing for YB Sapsucker.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

Good description - eliminates the similar
red=naped Sapsucker

Darren Clark
Accept

Well-written description favors Yellow-bellied and eliminates other sapsuckers.

Dave Trochlell
Reject, specific identification not established

I'm sorry to say that I'm not quite convinced. The differences between female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and female Red-naped Sapsucker apparently can be very subtle and subjective. Sibley mentions that some female RNSAs lack the pink on the nape, and if that's so than I don't know how we might distinguish the females of these two species.

Doug Ward
Accept

Observer’s note that adult female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) are distinctive within the Sphyrapicus group is correct, and he mentions the key fieldmarks – black framed white chin, and lack of red on the nape. They did not mention specifically that the black border to the chin was continuous, nor any detail about back/rump markings, so some doubt, but this might just be semantics. I’m comfortable enough to accept in this round, but given the date (somewhat late), and lack of a few details, it is not a strong acceptance.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

convincing description of key fieldmarks of a female YBSA

Charles Swift
Accept

Nice report of an apparent Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The only aspects that give me a bit of pause are the briefness of the sighting and the record not fitting the typical vagrancy pattern for this species in the west.

SECOND ROUND VOTING:

Doug Ward
Accept

I didn’t read anything in my second pass to change my initial vote.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

No change from round 1

Darren Clark
Accept

See first round comments

Shirley Sturts
Accept

same comments as in round 1

Cliff Weisse
Accept

I still find the description convincing.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

I've changed my vote to accept.

Charles Swift
Reject, specific identification not established

I'm swayed by Dave's concerns as well as the briefness of the sighting and date of the sighting. Admittedly the description of white chin/throat would seem to rule out Red-naped however some can have fairly minimal red (e.g. BNA/eBird photos) in which case a brief sighting could miss key aspects (and photos would greatly enhance confidence given the circumstances and liklihood). Perhaps some additional discussion is in order.