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Pictures of Tree Damage from Woodpeckers, Can That Darn Woodpecker Kill My Tree?

Updated on April 14, 2012

Damage From Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers

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I tied a shiny ribbon around the tree trunk to scare away any more pesky woodpeckers and also sprayed the openings with trekote to seal the wounds since they were substantial.
I tied a shiny ribbon around the tree trunk to scare away any more pesky woodpeckers and also sprayed the openings with trekote to seal the wounds since they were substantial.
I tied a shiny ribbon around the tree trunk to scare away any more pesky woodpeckers and also sprayed the openings with trekote to seal the wounds since they were substantial.

Can Woodpeckers Kill Your Tree?

While inspecting the ornamental trees in the yard this spring, you may discover very peculiar holes surrounding the perimeter of the trunk and I did you may realize you have unknowingly entertained a pesky woodpecker stalking the fluids and/or insects of your tree. A few holes here and there will not usually kill your tree. However, if treebark is removed around the perimeter of the trunk, "girding" you may have a problem. Trees can heal from a small wound or scrape. But if too much bark is removed, other problems can occur and the tree can surely die. The tree takes time to actually die from the stress of losing so much bark so you have to take action and protect your tree before it shows signs of deteriation.

I sprayed the holes with tree patch used for pruning. This gave the holes a good seal and hopefully the intervention will save my tree. The pattern was uniform and squared at the edges if the woodpecker visited for a longer period of time than just a few passing pecks. The woodpecker will peck a few times to see if the fluids can be easily accessed. If fluids are available, the woodpecker will continue making new holes around the perimeter. In some cases like the pictues of my tree, the patches are quite large.

What Kind of Woodpeckers Damage Ornamental Trees

The answer is Sapsuckers. There is a category of woodpeckers known as Sapsuckers. This particular species of woodpecker is interested in tree sap and then returns to feed on the insects that are attracted to the tender meal of exposed cambium. While some woodpeckers are tapping for insects usually in diseased trees in the woodline or fallen trees for nesting holes, the sapsuckers are busy working on trees that flourish and that can provide essential fluids. Woodpeckers are usually found in dense woodlands full of decidous trees.

Here is the long list of Sapsuckers: Williamson's Sapsucker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Arizona Woodpecker, Nattail's Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodpecker (rare), and finally Pileated Woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Notice the holes in this tree are just like the holes in my tree.
Notice the holes in this tree are just like the holes in my tree. | Source

Yellow -Bellied Sapsucker is the Suspected Culprit

While I did not see this woodpecker feasting on my tree, the telltale holes are very unique. The holes made by an adult Yellow- bellied sapsucker is 1/4 inch square holes that penetrate the bark to the cambium. These holes are usually 1/2 inch apart in horizontal rows. As you can see from my pictures that surely describes the damage. One resource I used while researching discusses how heavy feeding can lower wood quality, reduce growth, and even kill some trees. The damage causes girding (bark removed from perimeter of tree). It is stated that these pesky treemongers will continue to return to the food source each year until the trees are killed. That is why I made the decision to spray the tree with pruning spray. I am hoping that it deters insects and continued feeding by Woody.

Sphyrapicus various i.e. Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is 8 1/2 inches tall and sports a red forecrown on the typical woodpecker black and white head. On the male bird, the chin and throat is red whereas the female it is white. The juvenile bird retains a brownish plumage until late in the winter. It is commonly found in decidous forests. Though, neighborhood trees are also prime targets because in drought areas like where I live the trees are usually well watered and the fluids are viable. The range in quite large in North America and Mexico.

Tips for Attracting Woodpeckers Away from Tree

1. Put something scary in your tree.

2. I read that they will also feed from hummingbird feeders for the nectar.

3. Build woodpecker houses so they do not nest in your tree.

4. Spray the tree with pruning product on the wounds to seal them so insects are detered and woodpeckers go elsewhere.

5. Buy a large outside cat!!!!


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