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Gardening in Washington State

Recognizing Sapsucker Damage to Your Trees

Sapsuckers, a species of woodpecker, are a common cause of tree damage in yards and small woodlands. This damage is easy to identify. Sapsuckers peck holes in the bark of the tree that are approximately 1/4 inch in diameter and are drilled in horizontal and vertical rows. There are usually many holes close together.

Sapsucker damage

Sapsucker damage

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Sapsuckers will feed on both hardwoods and conifers. They prefer foraging on trees with thin bark, such as birch. Older conifers with thick and ridged bark are not as susceptible to sapsucker-caused damage. If the damage is limited and minor, the tree will recover.

The most commonly recommended damage control method is to wrap burlap around the affected area to discourage sapsuckers from returning. Liquid spray repellents applied to the tree bark can also be used as well as hanging bright, shiny objects such as pie tins, streamers, or beach balls on the tree as scare devices. These techniques may or may not be effective, and they may just shift the bird’s focus to another part of the tree or to a neighboring tree.

For more information on sapsucker damage to trees, go to

Submitted by: Dave Pehling, March 17 2014


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