Monday, November 06, 2006

Drilling Holes

In yesterday's post, I mentioned an additional bird that we saw at Willowwood Arboretum that I would post about today. While walking through the arboretum, I came across a Nikko Fir tree from Japan that had some very conspicuous markings on the trunk.

Here is a close-up of said tree. This tree seemed to be a hotbed of bird activity. I first noticed a White-breasted Nuthatch, then a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Then, I noticed some additional action higher up in the tree. Two woodpeckers were creeping up the tree. Every time I tried to see them, they would scoot around the opposite side. Don't you love it when woodpeckers do that?

The holes in the tree gave me a pretty good indication of who these woodpeckers might be. This is one of the holes in the tree, wet with fresh sap dripping out of it. I'm sure by now you may have guessed who these two birds were. Before I got the chance to see the birds though, they took off into a much taller nearby tree.

Here's one of them. Yes folks, it's a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - an uncommon migrant in this part of NJ. Sapsuckers traditionally tap small holes or make short horizontal grooves in neat rows around a tree and eat the sap that drains from them. Also, insects are attracted to the sap and add an additional course to the Sapsucker's diet. Unlike most woodpeckers that have a long, barbed tongue, the sapsucker has a shorter tongue covered in fine hairs perfect for lapping sap.

This Nikko Fir tree seemed to be a smorgasbord for sapsuckers. There were tons of holes in it due to several years of visiting birds it seemed, but very few in other nearby trees. What made this fir tree so desirable? I did some research, but didn't find anything. Any insights?


LauraHinNJ said...

Cool bird! Maybe the bark is really pliable?

I haven't seen a sapsucker yet, but they usually show up in the crabapples outside my office window. Saw a brown creeper today though!

Beth said...

Great post, Honey. That sapsucker was awesome!

Patrick B. said...


Perhaps that's the reason. Maybe Firs have more sap than other trees? For some reason I always associate Creepers and Sapsuckers together in my brain. I must have seen my lifers around the same time.


I'm glad you got to see your first sapsucker!

Susan Gets Native said...

The hole in that tree looks like a wound.

I have yet to see a sapsucker. But my father in law likes to tell me that a "double-breasted seersucker" is out at his feeders.