Striking and unmistakable in most of range; the only sapsucker in eastern North America. Long, solid white wing patch helps distinguish it from Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Adult male has red cap and throat; females are similar but with white throat; juveniles are messy brownish-gray overall. The namesake yellow belly can be difficult to see and is sometimes almost absent. Often looks disheveled, especially in fall and winter. Compare with the extremely similar Red-naped Sapsucker, which barely overlaps in range. Note male Yellow-bellied has complete black border around red throat patch, and the white markings on the back are more extensive and messy. Occurs in almost any wooded habitat, breeding in the boreal forest across Canada and wintering as far south as Costa Rica. Like other sapsuckers, drills rows of sap wells into tree bark. Listen for irregular drumming (like morse code) and various nasal calls.
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