Friday, May 25, 2012

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Anna Page Park, Rockford, IL

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Anna Page Park, Rockford, IL; 2/5/2012.
On an early Sunday morning of February 5th, I drove out to the west side of Rockford to check out a reported sighting of a flock of White-winged Crossbills. So while I was in the area, I decided to visit Anna Page Park, one of many beautiful Parks maintained by the Rockford Park District. I haven't been there in several years, and not since I have taken up birding as a hobby. I wasn't in the Park for more than ten minutes when I noticed a bird hovering above the trees. I wasn't sure what it was until it alit on a tree trunk. I was totally surprised to see a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Above). This species of woodpecker is not one of the several that will spend the winter in Northern Illinois. So seeing this guy was a treat and I thought that he might be taking advantage of the unusually mild and warm winter (February and March were especially warm) and arrive early. With this unseasonably warm weather, many birders were talking about the potential for migrants to start showing up early in northern Illinois. Another local birder buddy of mine, thought that perhaps this Sapsucker may have spent the winter here. Regardless of its reasons, I was happy to see it. On my trip into the Park, I wasn't able to get very good photos of it, but on my return trip out of the Park, he showed up again in the same area, and he gave me several nice open views.
The same Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Anna Page Park, Rockford, IL; 2/5/2012.
The only other time I saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker before this was two winters ago while Val and I were visiting Cancun, Mexico.  However, earlier this spring (1st week of April), while biking to school, I saw another Yellow-belly fly past in front of my bike and land on a utility pole.
The male is very handsome with its red crown and throat contrasting nicely with its white and black striped head. Its black and white mottled back is offset by white flanks and a dirty yellow belly. These sapsuckers normally will spend the winter a bit further south, from the southern half of Illinois all the way to the Gulf Coast and along the Atlantic coast from Deleware to Florida. They will then migate north for the summer to Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to the eastern edge of the dakotas and all the way to the Atlantic, In Canada they can be found in the Eastern and Central Provinces but also in the Northern halves of British Columbia and Alberta and even stretch their range into the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and even a bit across the border into Alaska. Not only are they a fun bird to see, but also has one of those names that non-birders like to hear and say.

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