Washington State University

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


One comment on “Recognizing Sapsucker Damage to Your Trees”

  1. bl said on December 2, 2022:

    I disagree. I own timberland as well as a small orchard, and have for many decades. I see sapsucker holes in many of my trees. None have been stunted or died due to damage. In fact, I my orchard, which has 60 year old apple and cherry trees in it, is completely perforated by sapsucker holes and still produces abundantly.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Gardening in Washington State, Puyallup Research and Extension Center

All publications linked to this website have been peer-reviewed
© 2023 Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright | Log in