Field identification tips: All sapsuckers (genus Sphyrapicus) are woodpeckers with a bold white stripe on the wing when folded, which may be hidden under body contour feathers. Typcal feeding behaviour is to drill numerous small holes in the feeding trees, returning to feed on sap and insects attracted to the sap. The bold black-and-white facial pattern is typical of this species and the closely related Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis, typical of the Great Basin) with red crown. Male S. varius has a solid red throat, female S. varius has a solid white throat. S. nuchalis has red on the nape which S. varius lacks, and the female's chin is white, with red throat.
Typical range: The breeding range of S. varius is from eastern North America through much of boreal Canada, wintering in the continent's southeast. Each winter a handful are observed in California west of the Sierra Nevada.