I make no claim at being a great birder. At best, I'm adequate, or as my granddaddy might have said, "fair-to-middlin'." I'm particularly shaky when it comes to birds I don't observe regularly, haven't seen in a long time, or individuals which don't look quite like their brethren. Females and juveniles can sometimes also be a problem. I'm pretty provincial, too.
Other identification issues for me can involve lighting, length of time seen, overall clarity—whether there's lots of screening brush or leaves between—viewing distance of the subject in question, and the habitat in which a sighting takes place—i.e., a bird out of place, appearing in unfamiliar or unexpected territory.
None of which is apt to prove much of a challenge to an expert birder…but as I say, I'm plainly not in that league. Hence the request for confirmation or correction—whichever is needed—of the bird in the photo, which I made yesterday.
I think it's a yellow-bellied sapsucker. For whatever reason, I seldom see more than one or two per year here along the river. And most—the ones I do spot, anyway—have distinctive red forehead patches, plus males also sport a matching red throat patch. The bird in the photo has neither. No red throat patch and an overall black cap.
My guess is a juvenile yellow-bellied, though whether male or female I haven't a clue. A quick troll through the Internet failed to help. Neither do any of the field guides on my shelves go into distinctions of male vs. female first year birds, nor make any mention of a black cap; none show an all-black cap in illustrations of immatures, or a lack of red on adult females. This includes a copy of the fairly definitive Woodpeckers: An Identification Guide to the Woodpeckers of the World, by Winkler, Christie, and Nurney—400-plus pages, 214 species.
I understand that books can't show every variation within a species. But while I expect the white wing stripe is more-or-less definitive, I remain mildly confused on the point of the all-black cap, and whether it's an adult female or first-year juvenile. I'd welcome your input.