Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers

Got rows of holes in a tree trunk?

By: Sandy Feather 2015
Penn State Extension

Q. My magnolia tree has rows of small holes in the trunks. I just noticed it this winter after the leaves dropped. Do you think some kind of borer is attacking my tree? If so, what can I do about it?

A. Since the holes appear in rows, it is more likely that the yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is responsible for the holes. These are medium-sized woodpeckers that have red heads, with white wing stripes and black crescents on their chests. They feed on sap from the holes they drill, as well as the insects attracted to the sap. They feed on over 250 species of trees, including magnolia, elm, pine, birch, maple and hemlock.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker damage

Their damage is not usually life threatening, but they often return to feed on the same tree year after year, which can create significant damage.


Preventing Sapsucker Damage

Tactics such as covering damaged areas with hardwire cloth or burlap can deter their feeding. You can also coat the area with a sticky material such as Tanglefoot. Sapsuckers are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and federal regulations, so avoid any actions that would harm them.

Sapsucker damage on Magnolia


Monarch Butterflies

Gypsy Moth

Rabbit Damage on shrubs



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