Saturday, November 28, 2009


...sapsuckers.  All three used to be lumped as the single species Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  A  couple of decades ago, the AOU Committee decided to split this bird based on genetic evidence.  Typically, it's relatively easy in the field to distinguish the current three species: the throat pattern of the Red-naped, with its red throat that bleeds through the black lateral throat stripe; the extensive red on the head and breast of the Red-breasted, and the plain nape and irregularly mottled back of the Yellow-bellied.  In addition, of course, range maps will help.  But more and more sapsuckers are showing up out of range and showing intermediate plumages.

All of this makes me wonder whether we shouldn't stop trying to identify weird-looking sapsuckers in the field and instead take inspiration from the old species epithet of the combined Yellow-bellied group: varius.


  1. Hi I have a difficulty in identifying a bird a I saw. Could you help me. Is it a just an ordiary duck or a comb duck?
    It is on this page. Would a comb duck be in the UK?

  2. The long tail, glossy black plumage, and whitish face suggest a domestic Muscovy Duck, but from what I see of the bill, it makes me suspect a hybrid between (domestic) Muscovy and (domestic)Mallard.

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