Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fresh sapsucker holes

    Every spring yellow-bellied sapsuckers fly through our area at this time of year drilling fresh holes in the bark of pecan trees (photo at right). These migrating members of the woodpecker family use their beaks to drill rows of shallow holes through the bark and into the sapwood. These holes are made at the very time when the sap is rising in pecan trees. In the photo at right, note that the holes have filled with tree sap. The birds will revisit their rows of freshly drilled holes and feed on the tree sap. Insects are also the attracted to the sap and become trapped in the sticky goo. This provides the sapsuckers with an additional food source--sap coated insects.  In a few weeks, the sapsuckers will be leaving our area to move northwards in search of additional trees with strong springtime sap flows.

    Yellow-bellied sapsuckers seem to have very specific tastes when it comes to pecan trees. They seem to prefer certain pecan cultivars and return to those same trees year after year. The photo at left shows a series of holes created several years ago. These old holes are on the same tree as the fresh holes I found on upper branches higher in the tree and pictured above.  What is most interesting is that the sapsuckers attacked only this Mullahy pecan tree and not any of the dozen or so other cultivars found close by. Stuart trees are also preferred by sapsuckers.