Yellow-bellied Bully

by Aden Troyer | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

I think some birders have feeding stations simply because they enjoy watching for unusual birds or unusual behavior.

Recently we had a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers coming to our suet log—one fairly large and the other very small for this species. The smaller bird was the most aggressive woodpecker we’ve ever seen. It would slam directly into any other woodpecker that dared to land on “its” log. I thought I’d just put up another log perhaps 20 feet (6 m) away and that should settle the disputes. Well, it didn’t!

Within two hours we saw that brute tackle a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, and a Hairy Woodpecker, knocking them to the ground where the victims rolled onto their backs in a defensive act while the sapsucker sat on top hammering away! Those three victims were all larger than the aggressor, but scrambled to their feet again and fled in terror.

Then the aggressive bird disappeared for several days. It returned, still an active feeder, but willing to share. We didn’t see it chase anything larger than itself.

We’ll probably never know why it had such a drastic change of behavior. Perhaps it met its match and received a good drubbing!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Photo © Stefonlinton/

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