Documentation of Williamson's Sapsucker

Observer Information

Reporter:  Chris MacDonald  49 Fawn Lake Rd,   Durango, CO  81301
Other Observers:  Emily MacDonald

Species, Date, Time and Location Information

Species:  Williamson's Sapsucker
First Date/Time:  1/30/2023 1:15:00 PM
Last Date/Time:  1/30/2023 1:30:00 PM
Duration (total time in view):  15 minutes
County:  La Plata
Specific Location:  Fawn Lake Road (Hermosa area), Durango, CO
Number:  1
Age:  Adult
Sex:  Female
Plumage:  Other/Unknown


Residential neighborhood, moving around on a maple tree.

Viewing Conditions

Optics:  Eyes and 8x42 binoculars
Distance:  30 ft
Light:  Overcast day with mostly flat and even lighting. No glare.

Description of the Bird

A woodpecker that was slightly smaller in size than an American Robin.  Four toes total.  Back was heavily barred with black and white.  Sides also barred with black and white.  Belly/underside yellow.  Upper breast was black and white barred.  Head was brown with no black and white and no red patches.  Bill was dark and length was about the size of head.  Dark eye.


Similar Species Discussion

Other speacies considered were Red-naped Sapsucker and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Red-naped Sapsuckers are resident here year round.  Eliminated Red-naped Sapsucker as a possibility due to lack of any red on head, nape, or throat; and the bird being observed also lacked the black and white stripe/coloration on the head that is characteristic of the Red-naped Sapsucker.  The bird being observed also lacked the long white stripe going down the side of the head, neck to the breast area that is characteristic of the Red-naped Sapsucker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker was eliminated due to the lack of black and white coloration on the head, nape, throat, and belly.  The Ladder-backed Woodpecker was also eliminated due to being slightly smaller than the bird observed, and further eliminated due to the range of the Ladder-backed Woodpecker being farther south.  Consideration was given to the bird possibly being a rare Ladder-backed visitor from New Mexico, but coloration completely discounted that as an option..  

Resources Used

 The bird was about 30 feet away in a tree.  Because it is winter the tree does not have any leaves so we had a clear and unobstructed view of the bird.  Observations were conducted with naked eye and with 8x42 binoculars.  Two observers present.

ID was made using both print and digital field guides.  A third local birded (Ryan Votta) was contacted by text and sent photos of the bird.  Ryan agreed with our ID of the bird being an adult female Williamson's Sapsucker.


Previous Experience

We regularly see this species in the spring and summer months here in La Plata county, but we usually see this bird about 2,000 ft higher in elevation at the Haviland Lake area.  This is the first time we have seen this bird during the winter, and the first time we have seen this bird at our elevation of 6,600 ft.


Notes made DURING observation

Date Documentation Submitted

1/30/2023 7:50:00 PM
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Location Map

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