Laguna Mountains – very rare sapsucker hybrid?, Jan 11, 2019
Been doing a bit of armchair birding what with the rain and everything. I noticed an interesting sapsucker report submitted to eBird by Ryan Pottinger from the Laguna Mountains (Noble Canyon Trail) on Jan 11, 2019. The report has some distant photographs which show what superficially appears to be a male Williamson's Sapsucker. But, as noted by Ryan in his description, the photos show red coloration in the front of the crown. This red coloration seems to indicate the bird could be a hybrid with Red-naped Sapsucker, as Ryan also suggests. Williamson's Sapsucker is sympatric with both Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers but there does not appear to be red coloration evident elsewhere about the head on this bird which might exclude Red-breasted involved as a parent.
Looking about in the literature, and online for photographs, it seems there are very few documented reports of such a hybrid. I have not spent a huge time looking but I cannot seem to find a photo or report. The only place I found mention of this hybrid is in a publication by Short & Morony (1970) describing in detail a male example discovered in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History. That specimen collected on January 1, 1891 in northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Their description matches the photographs by Ryan Pottinger. In the publication the authors also note one other known specimen of a female collected in the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona on October 25, 1929. Could this Laguna Mountains bird be a third example of this little known hybrid?
A very interesting looking sapsucker. If anyone obtains closer more detailed photographs please let us know!
Ryan Pottinger's photos in his eBird checklist here https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51590375
Short & Morony (1970) publication with description of male and female specimens here https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/condor/v072n03/p0310-p0315.pdf