Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers not as harmful as thought

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a woodpecker. As such, he has all the woodpecker characteristics.
For instance, he clings to the bark of trees and pecks at it incessantly. He doesn’t sing, but makes some loud non-musical calls.
He also stays close to trees almost all of the time.
This bird is different in one way, however. He loves the sap of the trees (hence its name).
If you look at the holes in tree trucks, and you find some (a lot) in a neat row or several neat rows, you will know that the sapsucker has been around.
There are only four sapsuckers in Canada, but the yellow-bellied variety is the only one here in Northern Ontario. Actually, it is found all across Canada, from the Yukon to Newfoundland.
The others are western species.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is quite a good-looking bird. It is a bit bigger than the Downy Woodpecker, but not nearly the size of the Hairy Woodpecker.
It is quite snappy in its full plumage, too. It has a prominent white stripe from its beak, which swirls back and then forward again. It back is black, but the feathers are all tipped with white.
The male bird has a prominent red patch at the front of its head, and also a bright red throat. The female has the red head bit but its throat is white.
The underparts of both are quite yellowish, and give this bird its name.
When flying, the white wing patches are a prominent trademark.
About those holes in the trees. They aren’t as random as you might think. For one thing, they are sort of squarish, and for another, they point down a little.
The sapsucker makes these holes so that they will fill up with sap.
These birds are very fond of sap, and they will return day after day to trees which have lots of holes, so they can drink the sweet sap and eat the insects which like the sap, too.
Do they kill trees? Well, sometimes, but not really very often. Young trees can be damaged enough to die, but mature ones almost always can withstand these depredations.
They seem to the partial to aspen, maple, and birch, along with some others. They are very fond of apple and pear trees, too.
Old fruit trees are not usually affected very much at all.
Sapsuckers, like all birds, have some rather odd habits. Courtship, for instance, is quite a show.
The male will dive at the female in a mock attack. She always zips out of the way at the last second by slipping around a branch, or “falling” off of it.
Most woodpeckers do “drumming” on old trees or hollow logs. So do these sapsuckers, but they do it differently—several rapid thumps, then a few slow ones.
They also will hammer the daylights out of any piece of metal which they find. This sound can be heard for at least a mile.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker builds its nest, as you might guess, in a hole in a tree. Both male and female chop out the hole, working for about a half-an-hour at a time.
The nest usually is in a dead or dying tree.
The young birds are about as homely as you can get. They make some very funny noises, squeals, squeaks, and so on.
And if you knock on the tree, they hiss “like a bag full of snakes” (as one naturalist put it).
Fairly common here in the north, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) makes his home in our local woods and farms.
He doesn’t do nearly as much harm as some people think.

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