Red-breasted Sapsuckers prefer to nest in aspen, alder, cottonwood, or willow trees that are affected with tinder fungus, which rots heartwood, softening it for the nest cavity, yet leaving a live, protective outer shell that they may then drill sapwells in.
Research has shown that a pair may begin excavating in separate locations, but will eventually decide on one for the nest cavity. Male then does most of the work and female joins in more as the season progresses.
The pair usually create a new nest cavity each year but may rarely reuse an old nest cavity. Red-breasted Sapsuckers do not require multiple cavities as the Downy, Hairy and Pileated do. Female will roost on the outside of a tree, usually under the base of a limb, while male incubates and broods at night.
Pair will take turns incubating 4-7 eggs for 12-13 days. Both sexes also brood for about 6 days after eggs hatch.
Juveniles leave nest after 23-29 days. When the young birds fledge, young and adults roost solitarily on tree trunks and do not return to the nest cavity.
Young are fed by the adults less than other woodpeckers in this area. The juveniles may begin to forage immediately after fledging, especially if there are sapwells right on the nest tree.