Proposal (547) to South American Classification Committee


Transfer Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius from the Hypothetical List to Main List



Luna et al. (2011) published details of multiple records of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius by multiple observers from the Santa Marta range during the Winter of 2010-2011, including two photographs.  One of these photographs, by co-author Ketil Knudsen, is excellent and could not be confused; the other by co-author Trevor Ellery, is a "record" photo.  This paper is available online: .  Ginsburg (2012) subsequently published further details of the observation during which Knudsen's photograph was obtained, reproduced the same photo, and discussed identification from S. nuchalis in the winter and vagrant range of S. varius. As Luna et al. (2011) noted, it seems likely that at least two birds were present in the Santa Marta mountains: localities at ProAves' Minca property and the ProAves El Dorado reserve (wherefrom all observations) are a few hours away by road and hundreds of metres apart elevationally.  Luna et al. (2011) also mentioned a record from the Central Andes of Caldas, claimed on a birding forum from the same period.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker should be a species familiar to many committee members, given its North American range.  It is known previously from a sight record in Colombia (Mazar Barnett & Kirwan 2001) and specimens on San Andrés island (in Colombia, but outside the SACC region).  It is also a known vagrant to other parts of the world, particularly the western Palearctic (Luna et al. 2011).  The occurrence of vagrants, overshooters, or small wintering numbers in Colombia is expected.  The species is virtually unknown in captivity, least of all in Colombia so a wild origin is presumed. 

A confirmed record of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker within the SACC area of Colombia is massively overdue.  We changed the species' status to "confirmed on the mainland" for Colombia's checklist last year (Donegan et al. 2011).  The SACC is now invited to take an equivalent step as regards the South American list.  This may be the least controversial SACC proposal ever and a YES vote is recommended.



Donegan, TM, Salaman P, Quevedo A & McMullan M. 2011. Revision of the status of bird species occurring or reported in Colombia 2011. Conservación Colombiana 15: 4-21


Ginsburg, P. A. 2012. First documented mainland South American record of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius.  Cotinga 34: 160-161.


Luna, J.C., Ellery, T., Knudsen, K. & McMullan, M. 2011.  First confirmed record of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius for Colombia and South America.  Conservación Colombiana 15: 29-30.


Mazar Barnett, J. & Kirwan, G.M. 2001. Neotropical Notebook: other records received. Cotinga 15: 70.


Thomas Donegan, September 2012



Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  The published photos provide concrete evidence of the occurrence of this species in Colombia.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES. The photographic evidence is incontrovertible.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES.  A partir dos múltiplos documentos disponibilizados.”


Comments from Nores: “YES. There seems no doubt that the bird in the picture is this species.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES. Interesting that this article actually does NOT detail how to identify the bird in the photos as a Yellow-bellied, particularly in reference to Red-naped. Of course Red-naped is very unlikely, but I am surprised that the editors did not require some information on how the identification is made.

“In any case the bird IS a Yellow-bellied: ignoring molt timing, the pattern of the back can be seen reasonably well on the side view. It shows the buffy bits scattered about on the back, not concentrated as two stripes on either side of the back. So YES accept to main list.”