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Red-naped Sapsucker -
Native Species Global Rank
State Rank Reason below)
Agency Status USFWS
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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is apparently secure and not at risk of extirpation or facing significant threats in all or most of its range.
Details on Status Ranking and Review
Red-naped Sapsucker ( Sphyrapicus nuchalis) Conservation Status Review
Review Date = 09/15/2008
Score U - Unknown
CommentUnknown. Range Extent
Score G - 200,000-2,500,000 km squared (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Comment292474 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps Area of Occupancy
Score H - >20,000 km squared (greater than 5,000,000 acres)
Comment57233 square kilometers based on GAP predicted model. Long-term Trend
Score E - Relatively Stable (±25% change)
CommentProbably declines in aspen stands since pre European times have resulted in some declines, but overall relatively stable. Short-term Trend
Score F - Increasing. Increase of >10% in population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences
CommentBreeding Bird Survey (BBS) data is of medium quality, 1966-2007 trend is +5.9% per year; BBS 1980-2007 trend is +4.6% per year Threats
Score E - Localized substantial threat. Threat is moderate to severe for a small but significant proportion of the population or area.
CommentLoss of aspen and riparian stands through climate change and grazing and alterations to stream flows for riparian regeneration
Severity Moderate - Major reduction of species population or long-term degradation or reduction of habitat in Montana, requiring 50-100 years for recovery.
CommentWhen aspen or riparian stands are lost they take a long time to recover
Scope Low - 5-20% of total population or area affected
CommentStill large portions of landscape with aspen and riparian stands
Immediacy Moderate - Threat is likely to be operational within 2-5 years.
CommentOngoing slowly. Intrinsic Vulnerability
Score C - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans). Environmental Specificity
Score B - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.
CommentAspen and broadleaf riparian stand dependent for sap as food source.
Call a nasal or mewing "
" or "
" like Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; typical drumming pattern is a burst of several rapid thumps followed by several slow, rhythmic thumps (Peterson 1990, Howell and Webb 1995). Like other sapsuckers, leaves distinctive sign in horizontal rows of small, squarish sap wells around tree trunks, especially in broad-leaved trees. See Devillers (1970) and Dunn (1978) for detailed information on identification. Small to medium woodpecker; length 19 to 21 cm; mass 32 to 66 g. Black bib on upper breast, prominent red forehead with black band at rear, nape red, black stripe along side of head bordered by 2 white stripes, crown and nape black, large white wing-patch, back blackish, rump white, and underparts buffy or yellow-tinged. Male: throat red. FeMale: chin and upper throat white, lower throat red (Walters et al. 2002).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see
Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
In Bozeman area, normal migration periods are May 8 to 20 and September 5 to 20, with no peak dates (Skaar 1969).
Birds have a strong preference for nesting in broken-top larch; optimum habitat is old-growth larch, particularly near wet areas. Excavates a new cavity each spring. Breeds in deciduous and mixed woodlands including aspen groves in open ponderosa pine forests, aspen-fir parklands, logged forests where deciduous groves remain, aspen groves in open rangeland, birch groves, montane coniferous forests and occasionally subalpine forest edges (Walters et al. 2002).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system,
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at:
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Human Land Use
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Creates sap wells in the bark of woody plants and feed on sap that appears there. When Red-naped Sapsuckers first arrive at their breeding areas, they often drill sap wells in the xylem of conifers and aspens. Once the temperatures increase and sap begins to flow, theses birds switch to phloem wellls in aspen or willow, if available. Insects, also bast (inner bark), fruit, and seeds (Walters et al. 2002).
Nest cavities made in dead trees or dead portions of live trees. Pure white, moderately glossy eggs are ovate to elliptical-ovate or rounded-ovate. Clutch size ranges 4 to 7 eggs (Walters et al. 2002). Near Fortine, egg dates are May 26 to June 3; young in nest from June 18 to July 11. Statewide, nests in June and early July (Davis 1961).
Literature Cited Above
Legend: View Online Publication Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 462 p. Devillers, P. 1970. Identification and distribution in California of the Sphyrapicus varius group of sapsuckers. California Birds 1:47-76. Dunn, J. 1978. The races of the yellow-bellied sapsucker. Birding 10(4):142-146, 148-149. Howell, S. N. G., and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages. Peterson, R.T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 432 pp. Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p. Walters, Eric L., Edward H. Miller, and Peter E. Lowther. 2002. Red-naped Sapsucker ( Sphyrapicus nuchalis). Species Account Number 663b. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database Additional References
Legend: View Online Publication Do you know of a citation we're missing? American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p. Baril, L.M. 2009. Change in deciduous woody vegetation, implications of increased willow (Salix spp.) growth for bird species diversity, and willow species composition in and around Yellowstone National Park's northern range. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 124 p. Bull, E. L., S. R. Peterson, and J. W. Thomas. 1986. Resource partitioning among woodpeckers in northeastern Oregon. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR. Research Note PNW-444. 19 pp. Butts, T.W., Western Technology and R.L. Eng. 1993. Continental Lime Indian Creek Mine, Townsend, MT. Life of Mine Wildlife Reconnaissance. In Life-of-Mine Amendment. Continental Lime, Inc., Indian Creek Mine & Plant. Vol. 2. October 13, 1992. Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp. Casey, D. 2005. Rocky Mountain Front avian inventory. Final report. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy by the American Bird Conservancy, Kalispell, Montana. Crockett, A. B., and H. H. Hadow. 1975. Nest Site Selection by Williamson's and Red-Naped Sapsuckers. Condor 77:365-368. Dickson, D.C. 1991. Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Missoula, MT. 14 pp. plus appendices and photographs. Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont. Dresser, M.A. 2015. Demographic responses of woodpeckers in relation to a Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic in the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 71 p. Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp. Flath, Dennis and David Dickson. 1994 Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area 1991-1993. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Goodell, J. 2012. Morse Land Company Breeding Bird Inventory And Analysis. High Desert Museum. Bend, OR. 42 pp + Appendices. Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Hejl, S.J. and L.C. Paige. 1994. A preliminary assessment of birds in continuous and fragmented forests of western red cedar/western hemlock in northern Idaho. In: Proceedings of interior cedar-hemlock-white pine forests: ecology and management. p. 189-197 Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Pullman, WA: Washington State University. Hejl, S.J., R.L. Hutto, C.R. Preston, and D.M. Finch. 1995. The effects of silvicultural treatments on forest birds in the Rocky Mountains. pp. 220-244 In: T.E. Martin and D.M. Finch (eds). Ecology and Management of Neotropical Migratory Birds. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. 489 p. Henderson, S. 1997. Effects of fire on avian distributions and patterns of abundance over two vegetation types in southwest Montana : implications for managing fire for biodiversity. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 95 p. Hoffmann, R.S. 1960. Summer birds of the Little Belt Mountains, Montana. Missoula, MT: Occasional Papers of Montana State University No. 1. 18 p. Hutto, R. L., and J. S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-32, Ogden, Utah. Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Lenard, S. and P. Hendricks. 2005. Birds of selected grassland and riparian plots along the Rocky Mountain Front. Montana Natural Heritage Program for US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. 17pp + maps. Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp. Maxell, B.A. 2016. Northern Goshawk surveys on the Beartooth, Ashland, and Sioux Districts of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest: 2012-2014. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 114pp. McClelland, B. R. 1977. Relationships between hole-nesting birds, forest snags and decay in western larch-Douglas fir forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. Ph.D. Thesis., Univ. of Montana, Missoula. 483 pp. McWethy, D.B. 2007. Bird response to landscape and pattern disturbance across productivity gradients in forests of the Pacific Northwest. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 184 p. Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map. Mosher, B.A. 2011. Avian community response to a mountain beetle epidemic. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 55 p. MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks. No date. Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area checklist. Newlon, K.R. 2005. Demography of Lewis's Woodpecker, breeding bird densities, and riparian Aspen integrity in a grazed landscape. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 101 p. Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p. Ralph, J.C., J.R. Sauer, and S. Droege. 1995. Monitoring bird populations by point counts. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-149. Albany, CA: USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station. 181 p. Richmond, C.W. and F.H. Knowlton. 1894. Birds of south-central Montana. Auk 11:298-308. Saab, V. and C. Groves. 1992. Idaho's migratory landbirds, description, habitats & conservation. Nongame Wildlife Leaflet #10. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, UBLM, USFS, USFWS, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 16 p. Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p. Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp. Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69. Sparks, J.R. 1997. Breeding bird communities in mature and old-growth Douglas-fir forests in southwest Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p. Thompson, Richard W., Western Resource Dev. Corp., Boulder, CO., 1996, Wildlife baseline report for the Montana [Montanore] Project, Lincoln and Sanders counties, Montana. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operation, Montanore Project, Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana. Vol. 5. Stroiazzo, John. Noranda Minerals Corp., Libby, MT. Revised September 1996. Tobalske, B. W. 1992. Evaluating habitat suitability using relative abundance and fledgling success of red-naped sapsuckers. Condor 94:550-553. Tobalske, B. W., R. L. Hutto, and R. C. Shearer. 1990. The effects of timber harvesting on the reproductive success of red-naped sapsuckers (Spphyrapicus nucyhalis). The N. Environ. J. 6:398-399. Waldt, R. 1995. The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve bird list. Choteau, MT: The Nature Conservancy. Updated August 1995. Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH). 1994. Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1993. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007c. Mar. 12, 1994. Weydemeyer, W., and D. Weydemeyer. 1928. The woodpeckers of Lincoln County, Montana. Condor 30:339-346. White, C.M., N.J. Van Lanen, D.C. Pavlacky Jr., J.A. Blakesley, R.A. Sparks, J.M.Stenger, J.A. Rehm-Lorber, M.F. McLaren, F. Cardone, J.J. Birek and D.J. Hanni. 2011. Integrated monitoring of bird conservation regions (IMBCR): 2010 Annual Report. Brighton, CO: Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. 387 p. Web Search Engines for Articles on "Red-naped Sapsucker"
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