Sapsuckers can damage trees in nurseries and landscapes. The damage is sometimes mistaken as insect damage. Sapsucker damage is often in rows that makes identification easy. But sometimes, the damage is less linear and dispersed as they chew to obtain sap from the trees. They feed by chewing "sap wells" in the bark in which they can feed on the sap.Their feeding is rarely as deep as damage from other woodpeckers feeding on insects under bark.

Most methods to mitigate damage involve exclusion (burlap or other wraps) repellents (usually sticky types), visual and noise scares. See resources below for more information.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2002. Woodpecker: Control Methods.

Hildahl, V. 2014. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

Lee, C. 1992. Woodpeckers. Urban Wildlife Damage Control. Kansas State University. October 1992. [Includes information on sapsuckers].

Ostry, M.E. and T.H. Nicolls. 1978. How to identify and control sapsucker injury to trees. North Central Forest Experiment Station. Forest Service. USDA. St. Paul, MN.

Paine, J. Woodpeckers. Wildlife Damage Control. Penn State University Extension.

Smiley, et al. 2007. Preventing Sapsucker Damage on Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). Arboriculture & Urban Forestry 2007. 33(5):367–370.

Vann, S. and J. A. Robbins. Sapsucker Damage on Woody Plants. University of Arkansas.

Walters, et al. 2014. Red breasted Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus ruber. The Birds of North America Online.

Zobrist, K. 2014. Recognizing Sapsucker Damage to Your Trees. Washington State University Extension Fact Sheet. FSO57E


Page last modified 12/17/14

Sapsucker damage on magnolia

Sapsucker damage closeup

Red breasted sapsucker and feeding damage on weeping giant redwood

Sapsucker damage on weeping giant redwood