McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

PHOTO LIBRARY

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker / Pic maculé (Sphyrapicus varius)

Seasonal status at MBO:

JAN
       
FEB
       
MAR
       
APR
       
MAY
       
JUN
       
JUL
       
AUG
       
SEP
       
OCT
       
NOV
       
DEC
       
  common
  fairly common
  uncommon
  rare
  occasional
  no records
 
QUICK TIPS:
1) Except for juveniles, sex can be determined by the throat - on males it is red, while on females it is mostly to entirely white

2) In summer to early fall, check the length of p10 - in juveniles only it extends beyond the primary coverts

3) Look for moult limits among the primary coverts:
  
 - in HY/SY birds they are uniform but somewhat paler than the greater coverts
    - in SY/TY birds the outermost 1-5 coverts are fresh and black, while the remainder are uniformly paler brown
    - in ASY/ATY birds they are uniformly fresh and black OR irregularly fresh/black and worn/brown

Note that woodpeckers can be confusing since individuals can be recognized as SY throughout the calendar year, but with different characteristics before/after their prebasic moult; be sure to take the timing of moult (late summer / early fall) into account

Ageing and sexing overview:

January - August:

ATY - M
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Primary coverts are either irregularly mixed with fresh and moderately worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh. Iris reddish brown. Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

   

ATY - F
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Primary coverts are either irregularly mixed with fresh and moderately worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh. Iris reddish brown. Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

     

TY - M
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown, OR all primary coverts brown and abraded.  Iris reddish brown. Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

     

TY - F
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts pale brown, OR all primary coverts brown and abraded.  Iris reddish brown. Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

SY - M
Head, back and upper breast a mix of brown juvenal and adult feathers. Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

SY - F
Head, back and upper breast a mix of brown juvenal and adult feathers. Primary coverts uniformly brown and contrast with the rest of the wing.  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

-

September - December:

ASY - M
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Primary coverts are either irregularly mixed with fresh and moderately worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh. Iris reddish brown. Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

     

ASY - F
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Primary coverts are either irregularly mixed with fresh and moderately worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh. Iris reddish brown. Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.  

     

SY - M
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown OR all primary coverts brown and abraded. Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

     

SY - F
Head, back and breast black, white and red without brown juvenal feathers. Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown OR all primary coverts brown and abraded.  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

     

HY - M
Head, back and upper breast a mix of brown juvenal and adult feathers. Primary coverts paler brown than the rest of the wing.  Iris gray/brown. Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.

HY - F/U
Head, back and upper breast a mix of brown juvenal and adult feathers. Primary coverts uniform, quickly becoming worn.  Iris gray/brown.  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

 

 Ageing and sexing details:

after-third-year male


Head, back and breast are black white and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of fresh and relatively worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are uniformly adult OR have 1-6 older adult feathers (usually through s1-s8), contrasting slightly with the rest of the replaced feathers.  This usually is not symmetrical in both wings.  ATYs with uniform adult flight feathers can possibly be aged A4Y, and ATYs with isolated retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts consecutively replaced from the outside might be aged as 4Y or even 5Y, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for this age group.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-third-year female


Head, back and breast are black white and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of fresh and relatively worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh (this case is shown below).  The secondaries are uniformly adult OR have 1-6 older adult feathers (usually through s1-s8), contrasting slightly with the rest of the replaced feathers.  This usually is not symmetrical in both wings.  ATYs with uniform adult flight feathers can possibly be aged A4Y, and ATYs with isolated retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts consecutively replaced from the outside might be aged as 4Y or even 5Y, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not terribly useful for this age group.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

third-year male


Head, back and breast are black white and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red. 

 


Primary coverts either retained juvenal feathers, brown and very worn OR the outermost few primary coverts contrastingly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are usually a mix of fresh (dark) and 1-6 retained (brown) juvenal feathers in a block.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers. Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY, especially those with strange moult patterns.

 


Tails are not especially helpful for this age group.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

third-year female


Head, back and breast are black white and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

 


Photo by Simon Duval, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008


Primary coverts either retained juvenal feathers, brown and very worn OR the outermost few primary coverts contrastingly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are usually a mix of fresh (dark) and 1-6 retained (brown) juvenal feathers in a block.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers. Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY, especially those with strange moult patterns.


Photo by Simon Duval, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008


Tails are not especially helpful for this age group.


Photo by Simon Duval, McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red. 


Photo by Barbara Frei,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2006


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, Dinosaur Provincial Park, May 2007


The first prebasic moult includes up to a few inner lesser coverts and median coverts, and all primaries and rectrices. These should all be replaced by August.  Primary coverts are uniform in colour, and by spring are usually brown, at least slightly paler than adjacent black feather tracts.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, April 2008


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, Dinosaur Provincial Park, May 2007


The first prebasic moult includes rectrices, so look for a uniform tail in spring.


Photo by Barbara Frei,
McGill Bird Observatory, May 2006

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


Head, back and/or upper breast has a mix of brown juvenal feathers and adult feathers, becoming fully adult by Dec-May (but sometimes as late as the 2nd prebasic moult).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers. The iris is gray-brown to brown through January.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005


The first prebasic moult includes no to a few inner lesser coverts and median coverts, and all primaries and rectrices. These should all be replaced by August.  Primary coverts are uniform in colour, quickly becoming brown by winter/spring.  Secondaries are also uniform in colour, as are the tertials.

 


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005

 


The first prebasic moult includes rectrices, so look for a uniform tail in spring.


Photo by Marcel Gahbauer, McGill Bird Observatory, May 2005

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

after-second-year male


Head, back and breast are black, white, and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red. 

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of fresh and relatively worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are uniformly adult OR have 1-6 older adult feathers (usually through s1-s8), contrasting slightly with the rest of the replaced feathers.  This usually is not symmetrical in both wings.  ASYs with uniform adult flight feathers can possibly be aged ATY, and ASYs with isolated retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts consecutively replaced from the outside might be aged as TY or even 4Y, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not especially helpful for this age group.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW 

 

after-second-year female


Head, back and breast are black white and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers.

 


Primary coverts are an irregular mix of fresh and relatively worn adult feathers OR are uniformly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are uniformly adult OR have 1-6 older adult feathers (usually through s1-s8), contrasting slightly with the rest of the replaced feathers.  This usually is not symmetrical in both wings.  ASYs with uniform adult flight feathers can possibly be aged ATY, and ASYs with isolated retained juvenal primary coverts or with 3 generations of primary coverts consecutively replaced from the outside might be aged as TY or even 4Y, but more study is needed.

 


Tails are not especially helpful for this age group.
 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year male


Head, back and breast are black, white, and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.  The iris is gray-brown to brown through January.

 


Outer few primary coverts replaced (black), all other retained primary coverts brown.  The secondaries are either uniformly adult with fresh tertials OR may contain 1-4 retained juvenal feathers.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers. Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY.


 


Tails are not terribly useful for ageing or sexing woodpeckers.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

second-year female


Head, back and breast are black, white, and/or red without brown juvenal feathers (caution: adult feathers can be tipped brown).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers. The iris is gray-brown to brown through January.

 


Primary coverts either retained juvenal feathers, brown and very worn OR the outermost few primary coverts contrastingly dark and fresh.  The secondaries are usually a mix of fresh (dark) and 1-6 retained (brown) juvenal feathers in a block.  These should be symmetrical in both wings, faded, abraded and contrasting markedly with the fresher, replaced feathers. Some intermediates are difficult to separate from ASY and should be aged as AHY, especially those with strange moult patterns.

 


Tails are not especially helpful for this age group.

 

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year male


Head, back and/or upper breast has a mix of brown juvenal feathers and adult feathers, becoming fully adult by Dec-May (but sometimes as late as the 2nd prebasic moult). Crown primarily red, throat and chin are also red.  The iris is gray-brown to brown through January.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, October 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008


The first prebasic moult includes no to a few inner lesser coverts and median coverts, and all primaries and rectrices. These should all be replaced by August.  Primary coverts are uniform in colour, quickly becoming brown by winter/spring.  Secondaries are also uniform in colour, as are the tertials.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson,
McGill Bird Observatory, September 2006


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, October 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008


The first prebasic moult includes rectrices, so look for very fresh feathers after the moult completes in August, or a mix of juvenal and HY feathers beforehand.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, September 2006

 


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, October 2007

RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

hatch-year female / unknown


Head, back and/or upper breast has a mix of brown juvenal feathers and adult feathers, becoming fully adult by Dec-May (but sometimes as late as the 2nd prebasic moult).  Crown completely black OR primarily red (but less extensive than males), throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers. The iris is gray-brown to brown through January.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2007


The first prebasic moult includes no to a few inner lesser coverts and median coverts, and all primaries and rectrices. These should all be replaced by August.  Primary coverts are uniform in colour, quickly becoming brown by winter/spring.  Secondaries are also uniform in colour, as are the tertials.


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2007


Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008


The first prebasic moult includes rectrices, so look for very fresh feathers after the moult completes in August, or a mix of juvenal and HY feathers beforehand.


Photo by Barbara Frei, McGill Bird Observatory, August 2008

 RETURN TO AGE/SEX OVERVIEW

 

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.