Red-breasted Sapsucker Brightens the Day

The grays and browns of winter were interrupted by a vibrant splash of color as this Red-breasted Sapsucker came to feast upon a Big Leaf Maple tree.

   Tap!                                                                  Tap!                                                                       Tap!

That sound is the first clue that a sapsucker is near-by. This species of bird drills a horizontal grid pattern of holes in deciduous trees. Why do they do this? Red-breasted Sapsuckers drink the sap that collects in the holes, and eat the insects that are attracted to the sap. Berries supplement the diet when in season.

I’m always amazed by the precision of drilling. This trunk is a good example. Notice the conical shape of the bill… a perfect tool for getting the job accomplished.

 Many people are concerned if these tidy patterns of holes are found on their trees. Will sapsucker feeding habits kill the tree? An article published by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources is reassuring

What, if Anything, Should You Do?

“So what should you do about sapsuckers? In most cases, do nothing. The shallow damage will not be severe enough to cause serious problems to the tree(s). If a persistent sapsucker is causing serious injury to a tree, or making it vulnerable to other problems, try wrapping hardware cloth around the affected area. This might shift the bird’s focus to a neighboring but, likely, healthier tree that can sustain the minor damage the bird causes.

Sapsuckers, like all woodpeckers, are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. For the most part, sapsucker damage is just part of living with nature, something to be endured as an occasional inconvenience.”(Cut from source: 01-11-15)

I’m delighted that we have created a Nature Habitat Reserve on riparian property in our yard. It’s comforting to know that birds and wildlife can come without too much worry… (We’ve yet to find a way to deter neighborhood catsany suggestions?)

Natural science behind this post:

Washington State Department of Natural Resources- Ear to the Ground:Sapsuckers! Persistent birds drill into, but usually do not harm trees;

All About Birds- Red Breasted Sapsucker Life History; 

Would you enjoy viewing more Red-breasted Sapsucker photographs?

Click on the link below:

Red-breasted Sapsucker Gallery


  1. Beautiful capture! One afternoon when I was sitting at my computer desk in front of a window with a gauzy curtain, a red flash appeared behind the curtain. Peeking carefully around the edge of the curtain I found a Red-breasted Sapsucker a foot away on a sweetgum. Exciting!


  2. That is a beautiful visitor indeed — and agree with the comments on its unfortunate name 🙂 Thanks for the link to your dept of natural resources, I will remember that next time I hear woodpeckers tapping away at trees nearby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On a related note… Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers differ in the purpose for pecking holes. Woodpeckers feed on insects. Sapsuckers, as we know, feed on the sap and the insects are kind-of a bonus!!

      Glad you have the link… I noticed that many other online sources of information about these tapping birds consider them to be “pests.” 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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