Jun 18, 2015 | Featured Web Article

Do sapsuckers damage trees?

Sapsuckers boring trees is natural and necessary for their survival. It’s what they do for a living!
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Sometimes, yes, sapsuckers damage trees. Their boring won't kill the tree, but it will weaken the wood and allow the potential for disease to enter. But not necessarily. We've seen enormous, healthy-looking trees with sapsucker scars. Unless you plan to sell your tree for lumber, you might never notice a health problem with the tree. Odds are, it will live for many decades despite the sapsucker holes.

Woodpeckers boring trees is natural and necessary for their survival. It's what they do for a living! Unfortunately, the birds sometimes choose a tree that you care about for their food source.

To encourage sapsuckers to find another tree to bore, try wrapping the trunk of your tree in hardware cloth—not too tightly, and be careful not to let the tree grow around it. Here's what the University of Illinois Extension Service suggests: To reduce damage from these birds, hang strips of aluminum foil, pie tins, or other objects that flash light and/or make noise in the trees.

Other sources recommend wrapping the trunk in burlap, but not during summer, as it will hold moisture against the tree, increasing possibility of infection from mold and bacteria.

For solutions to other backyard problems and pests, check out The Backyard Bird Watcher's Answer Guide, which answers 101 of the most-often-asked questions about backyard birds.

About Dawn Hewitt

Dawn Hewitt is the editor at Watching Backyard Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald-Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.


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  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021