Several critters cause
holes in the bark of trees. Small ones spaced randomly
around are usually caused by
borer insects. A single row
of larger holes is usually a woodpecker searching for a
borer below the bark. But, if you have a series of nice
rows of ¼ inch of holes one above the other, the culprit
is probably a sapsucker.
There are two species of
these yellow-bellied or red-breasted birds but they all
have one thing in common. They feed on the sap that
flows from the holes they bore into the bark of trees.
At times, they pick a favorite tree and may punch many,
many holes in it over several years.
Sapsucker damage can
cause a decline in the vigor of the tree and may also
allow the entry of disease organisms. In rare cases, the
holes may go all the way around the tree and girdle it,
resulting in its death.
If you see this type of
damage or actually see the bird chipping away at the
bark, there are few things you can do about it. Some
people have tried wrapping the damaged area in burlap
smeared with something sticky like tanglefoot. This may
work or the bird might just move to another part of the
If you live in a remote
area and are tempted to just shoot the bird, be aware
that you must check with your local Conservation Officer
or Department of Wildlife to see if a permit is needed.