Appalachian Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
|A group of scientists and resource managers
from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have been evaluating
the conservation status of the Appalachian Yellow-bellied Sapsucker,
a southern Appalachian endemic subspecies. This web site provides
information on the activities of this ad hoc working group
and basic information on this bird.
taken by K. Watson and J. Gerwin including list of participants
and their contact information (updated 22 April 2002). On February
14-15 2002, scientists and resource managers met to discuss the
status of the Appalachian Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (AppYBSA). Meeting
participants compiled records of the AppYBSA for the southern mountains;
discussed the need to know more about its population status and
breeding ecology; and decided that additional surveys for this woodpecker
would be warranted.
from second meeting, August 7-8, 2002, Asheville, NC. Notes
taken by K. Watson. Meeting participants compiled records of
the AppYBSA obtained during surveys conducted during the early part
of the summer.
- Meeting Notes
(draft, MS Word file) from third meeting, 27 March 2003 in Asheville, NC.
Plans for 2003 surveys were made. See map below.
- Meeting Notes from fourth
meeting, 13 Nov 2003, Boone, NC. Updates on research results,
progress on surveys, discussion of management implications.
- Meeting Notes from fifth meeting,
04 Nov 2004, Boone, NC. Updates on research results,
progress on surveys, discussion of management implications.
Background on Appalachian Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
The AppYBSA is considered a subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (
Sphyrapicus varius). Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breed in the northern
forests of Canada and across the northern U. S. from the eastern Dakotas
to New England and south through the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania,
West Virginia and northern Virginia. During the winter, Yellow-bellied
Sapsuckers migrate to the forests of the southeastern US. Please look
at range maps in a field guide such as the Peterson or Sibley guides to
see extent of the northern breeding and southern wintering range of this
species. While the bulk of this species breeds across the northern
portions of North America, a smaller set of populations that seem to be
disjunct from the rest of the species breeds in the southern mountains.
An Appalachain subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker breeds in the
Southern Blue Ridge Province of the Appalachians in the high mountains of
southwestern Virginia, eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and possibly
in northern Georgia. Most of the breeding records come from NC and
the TN and VA counties bordering NC. A morphological study by (Ganier
1954) found that the AppYBSA has more spotting on the breast and back than
the northern sapsuckers giving this subspecies a darker overall appearance.
Based on existing records, this subspecies breeds in forests at elevations
between 3000 ft and 5500 ft (915-1675 m) above sea level. Nesting
records exist for a range for forest conditions ranging from the edges of
clearcuts and old pastures to forest interiors and old-growth forests.
At present, the precise breeding habitat requirements of this species are
poorly understood. Moreover, it is not definitely known where these
birds spend the winter. Several authors speculate that these birds
remain close to their breeding ranges but migrate to lower elevations during
severe winter weather. Sapsuckers are commonly observed in the piedmont
and coastal plain of the Southeast, but these individuals are most likely
birds from the northern breeding ranges (i.e., not AppYBSA).
The group meeting in Asheville identified the need to learn more
about the following issues related to AppYBSA:
- ecological requirements (What kind of habitat do they need?)
- breeding distribution (Where are they breeding and wintering?)
- population status (How many of these woodpeckers exist?
Are their populations stable, growing or declining?)
- population structure (Are the sapsuckers clustered in isolated
breeding groups or do individuals regularly disperse to other breeding
locations within the southern mountains?)
Sapsucker Surveys (updated for 2003)
Additional information on the breeding distribution of the AppYBSA would
help answer some of the questions listed above. Surveys were conducted
by volunteers in 2002 to expand our database of AppYBSA locations, and additional
surveys are planned for the breeding season of 2003. The map
below shows general location of surveys planned by the participants in the
recent meeting. The target dates for the surveys are April 27 - June
30. A standard survey protocol has been developed. The protocol
includes a timed point-count technique using an audio tape of sapsucker
drums and calls. The details of the protocol are available from this
website. See the links below.
If you have breeding season records of AppYBSA to contribute to our dataset
or are interested in assisting with these surveys, contact John Gerwin (
, 919 715-2600).
Instructions and Data Forms for AppYBSA surveys can be downloaded
from the links below.
Link to 2002 Survey Map
More information on Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (YBSA)
thesis on AppYBSA
by Jason Osborne
(500-KB PDF file).
including photos, song, ID tips, range map by USGS Patuxent Wildlife
of YBSA from Univ. of Michigan Museum of Zoology
by USGS Biological Resources, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center.
for YBSA by USGS Biological Resources.
- Range map
for YBSA from Breeding Bird Surveys.
- An account
of the woodpecker family (Picidae) by Don Roberson.
- Sound file
of YBSA call and drum (142-KB WAV file).
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photographs (these are not images of
the Appalachian subspecies).
by Brad Bergstrom.
- Photo and
of YBSA and sapwells (tree holes) by Fire Island National Seashore.
of wintering YBSA in Florida by EcoFlorida magazine.
of woodpeckers including YBSA by Illinois Raptor Center.
of sapsucker holes in tree by Purdue University, Plant & Pest Diagnostic
of birds for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (by USGS).
bioliography (MS Word document, updated November '04) compiled by Curtis Smalling
- Ganier, Albert F. 1954. A new race of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
The Migrant 25(3):37-41.
Updated: 06 April 2005 by Scott Pearson