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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Williamson's Sapsucker -- Sphyrapicus thyroideus

RANGE: Breeds from extreme southern interior British Columbia, Idaho, western Montana, and Wyoming south in the mountains to northern and east-central California, central Arizona, and southern New Mexico. Winters generally from the breeding range south to Baja California, and east to western Texas and Mexico.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Prefers mixed conifer-hardwood forests in the Rocky Mountain region but also inhabits the subalpine spruce-fir-lodgepole zone, and ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and aspen forests.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dead or live trees infected with Fomes, a heartrot fungi, for cavity nest sites.

NEST: Chooses different tree species for cavity nests in different regions. In some areas, nests primarily in conifers; in others, prefers aspen, especially those infected with Fomes. In Colorado and Arizona, mostly nests in aspen snags or live aspen infected with Fomes.

FOOD: Drills rows of pits in the bark of lodgepole pine, hemlock, red and white firs, Jeffrey pine, and aspen and consumes sap and cambium. Eats ants for most of its animal food but also wood-boring larvae, moths of spruce budworm, and other insects.

REFERENCES: Baily and Neidrach 1965, Beal 1911, Bent 1939, Burleigh 1972, Crockett and Hadow 1975, Hubbard 1965, Jackman 1975, Ligon 1961, Oliver 1970, Packard 1945, Rasmussen 1941, Tatschl 1967.

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