Sapsuckers in the neighborhood

Published 8:05 pm Saturday, March 11, 2017

If you listen closely during March and April, you will hear a tapping sound in your neighborhood trees. A bird called the sapsucker woodpecker is making the noise.

Sapsuckers are migrating birds that spend their summers in the northern part of the country and the winters and early springs in the south. Because the sapsucker is here for only a short amount of time, you may miss seeing the bird. But if you look at your trees in your neighborhood, you will notice the distinct pattern they leave behind.

The sapsucker will drill horizontal parallel roles of holes in the trunks or branches of trees. The tree will ooze sap and sugars from the holes. The sapsucker comes back and sucks up the sap and any of the insects that the sugars attracted.

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The sapsuckers are attracted to maple, ash, elm and oak. Typically, the health of the tree will not be compromised by the drilling as long as it occurs on large trunks and branches. However, smaller or younger trees can be damaged.

If damage caused by the sapsucker on a young tree appears to be extreme, you can wrap the trunk in burlap held in place with duct tape. The sapsuckers feed here for just a few weeks so the burlap can removed after they migrate to follow spring.

If the damage is not great, then take the opportunity to enjoy the backyard wildlife. You will be able to hear their rhythmic tapping in the trees and enjoy their unmistakable black, white and red coloring.

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at