The White-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cactorum) drills holes in branches and trunks to feed on sap flows, providing an energy-rich food resource for other birds. Here we describe ecological and behavioral traits of the White-fronted Woodpecker related to its sap-feeding habits in the semiarid Chaco of Argentina and explore the structure of the avian assemblage in relation to the sap resource. Sap consumption by the White-fronted Woodpecker and other sap-feeding species was strongly seasonal and positively associated with periods of resource scarcity. The White-fronted Woodpecker actively defended the sap wells from smaller birds. Specialist and facultative nectarivores that assimilate sucrose at a high rate represented an important proportion of sap-feeding birds. In this system of woodpecker, sap, and other sap-feeding species, each species' consumption depends on its physiological and behavioral characteristics as well as on the availability of other food in the surrounding environment.
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Vol. 115 • No. 1