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Multiple Washington State (US) ID problems (Red-breasted Sapsucker hybrid?) (1 Viewer)


Hi everyone.
A couple of months ago I went to Washington State (last three days of July, first week of August) and I birded in the western part of the state. There were a few birds that I managed to take pictures of and identify thanks to those, but now I am not 100% sure of them.

First up is one I am fairly certain of, but since it is a lifer, I would like to have some experts confirm its ID. I think it is a Black-backed Woodpecker. The habitat was right (next to a burnt area of forest, up in the Cascades) and the bird had been seen there previously (very recently). It has the typical white comma behind the eye and no trace of longer supercilium, plus the shape of the head and the general blackness. An alternative would be American Three-toed Woodpecker, but I think it would show much more white in the back, plus a different pattern on the face?


Second one is much more complicated. I was in Capitol State Forest, which in the State is widely recognized as a good place to see Hermit Warbler. There are some locations not far away where, however, hybrids with Townsend are commoner than "pure" Hermits. I saw this individual and took pictures and it definitely looks like a Hermit. It is a female-type Hermit Warbler which does not have anything of the hybrid, as far as I can see, but am I missing something?


Finally, this is the really difficult one. Of the first two I am quite confident, but this is a bird of whose identity I cannot decide. I saw this bird in the Cascades (Leech Lake), where both Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsucker occur. My two alternatives are either Red-breasted Sapsucker or Red-breastedXRed-naped Sapsucker hybrid.

It looks kind of phenotypically ok for Red-Breasted Sapsucker. I found this link (http://birdhybrids.blogspot.com/2014/06/red-naped-sapsucker-x-red-breasted_11.html) where it explains quite well the hybrid phenotype. This sapsucker has:

1) Blood-red arriving well on the breast (see pictures 7081, 7072, 7074-b).
2) Red being also the primary color from eye to nape (7073, 7074-b, 7075), while all the hybrids in the website have either a clear black line from eye to nape (photo id on the website: 1267) or black arriving close to the eye (photo id on the website 1530-1531).
3) The face appeared definitely closer to red-breasted than red-naped (not as in hybrids 1145-1151).

However, if the very first picture (by Mlodinow) in the website is a hybrid, then the difference between hybrid and normal Red-breasted is really imperceptible to me. Moreover, while this comparison has been made with Red-breasted Sapsucker from other states, birds in Washington are supposed to look quite different (subspecies ruber). However, I found quite a number of pictures of red-breasted sapsuckers allegedly taken in Washington State that show birds similar to ours:



Here are the pictures of the bird:


Thank you for everyone who would be so kind to answer!


Well-known member
I don't think I can add much to your own analysis, but I hate to see you get no responses to your post. I agree your first bird is a Black-backed Woodpecker for the reasons you have given and the very long bill. I don't really have significant experience with the hybrids, but the other two look like a fairly typical Hermit Warbler and a fairly typical Red-breasted Sapsucker.


Thanks RKJ, I really appreciate the answer! I think that for what concern hybrids, as it is not easy to give a definite opinion, folks might prefer to wait up. But again, thanks!


Well-known member
United States
I had quite a bit of trouble with these. I saw nothing wrong with Hermit Warbler, but don't have any experience or knowledge of hybrids.

My first thought on the sapsucker was a hybrid, though.

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