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Photo © Larry Ditto

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Tiny sap wells excavated by the yellow-bellied sapsucker usually occur in horizontal rows on a variety of trees in such a fashion that they look like bullet holes from a machine gun. This doesn’t kill the tree — instead, it only injures it enough to ooze tasty sap to cover the wound. People who harvest maple syrup can relate to sapsuckers because they’re kindred spirits. That sap, before it hardens, is not only consumed by this bird but also attracts insects that get trapped in the sticky stuff, creating an easy meal. This migratory species pours into our state in fall, peaking in the first half of October, and overwinters with us. Come springtime, they head back north before things really start to heat up. Maybe this is just another hard-headed bird that bangs its head against a tree, but I’d say escaping the heat makes it pretty smart.


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