Naturewatch: Some pecking birds will kill trees


Q: I didn't know woodpeckers would kill trees. I thought maybe insects were killing trees, and the sapsuckers and other woodpeckers were feasting on them?

HOWARD, Schylerville, N.Y.

A: Most woodpeckers visit trees already infested with insect problems. They are the "first responders." Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, on the other hand, are known to kill once-healthy trees by girdling them with small 1/4 inch, closely spaced, shallow holes that they drill in neat rows into the bark to release sugary-sweet sap. They feed at these sap wells on both the sap and the insects that are attracted.

Look closely at trunks, and branches of trees frequented by the sapsuckers, like mountain ash and apple and you may notice girdling -- small holes going around a tree trunk or branches.

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only member of the woodpecker family to cause this type of injury, and more than 250 kinds of woody plants are known to be attacked. Favorites are birch, maple and

Our mountain ash when we lived in Dalton was the star attraction. A USDA forest study of trees injured by yellow-bellied sapsuckers noted a mortality of 67 percent for gray birch, 51 percent for paper birch, and 40 percent for red maple.

LOST AND FOUND: Is anyone missing an albino, or leucistic, fowl; possibly a female peafowl (peacock) more correctly, a peahen? See accompanying photo.

One was seen near Windsor Jambs a few days ago. It was reasonably friendly and inquisitive.

If it is yours, email

FREE NESTING WOOL: I read your column and wonder if your readers would be interested in small amounts of sheep wool to put out for nesting birds.

When my wife cleaned out our bluebird box she noticed wool from our sheep in the nesting material, so now we make a habit of placing it where birds can easily find it. We wonder if your readers would also like some.

If so, send a self addressed envelopes with three first-class stamps enclosed. (If envelope only requires only two, I will return extra) to Anthony Congelosi, 1757 Oblong Road, Williamstown MA 12671

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are back. At the time of this writing, they have made it as far north as Canada, so it is time to get your sugar-water feeders out.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


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