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Photo © R. M. Buquoi Photographics, LLC
Photo © R. M. Buquoi Photographics, LLC

Williamson’s sapsucker

It took a long time for early ornithologists to realize that the males and females of this species — which look vastly different in an extreme example of “sexual dimorphism” — actually were not different species. The male is mostly black; the female is duller with a brownish head and a black-and-white barred body. A naturalist collected a male during an 1855 Oregon railroad expedition, so this unknown woodpecker was named in honor of the commanding officer, Robert Stockton Williamson. Several years earlier, ornithologist John Cassin described this species but based his description on the two females he collected. It took years to realize the two discoveries represented the same species.


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