Thursday, July 23, 2009

Woodpecker's effect on trees

Inspired by Kelly's post on her weeping willow tree I took a look at the trees in my backyard. We have a dead pine tree trunk in the back of our house. Originally the young pine tree served as an anchor for a clothes' line, but as it grew, the line girded and killed the tree. Too bad, but the tree would have had to come down anyway because the area was getting too crowded. A pileated woodpecker has been working on it.
Pileated Woodpecker

pine trunk with woodpecker holes

There are two trees in the front yard that have been attracting woodpeckers. One is a crab apple tree on which I have been hanging my feeders. The trunk of this tree has suffered extensive pecking damage. I think the hairies, downies, and to a lesser extent the redbellies, are problably responsible for the death of one of its major branches.

Crab Apple Tree damaged by woodpeckers


The second one is the mountain ash that I had planted in the middle of the front lawn when I first moved into the house 20 odd years ago. I thought the red berries would attract birds, but the tree, hemmed in by larger trees, never really thrived, growning tall and spindly instead. Many of the upper branches have died. I am sure the yellow-bellied sapsuckers that seemed to be particulary attracted to that tree are largely responsible. They damage the tree trunk by drilling round well holes into it that look like pockmarks.

Mountain Ash damaged by sapsuckers

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

close-up of tree damaged by sapsucker

Eventually we are probably doing to lose the trees, but in the meantime they provide sustenance to the woodpeckers.

It's been very busy around the feeders: beside the woodpeckers, a family of rose-breasted grosbeaks with at least four by now almost fully grown fledglings, grackles, northern cardinals, goldfinches, red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, blue jays, various sparrows, an immature brown thrasher, titmice and white-breasted nuthatches. There are a couple of crow families with youngsters in the large trees surrounding our property, and even an occasional raven. There must be a raven nest somewhere in the neighborhood. I hear their deep croaks when they fly over but am always too late for a photo.


  1. Wow! I love this post!! Your trees really are woodpecker friendly...and look at the woodpeckers you've attracted! Beautiful pileated shot. You're so lucky to have one in your yard! My parents had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in their yard for years, but one has never visited out here. Beautiful his little sap wells.

  2. p.s. I didn't get to say Thank You! for mentioning my willow tree. It was very cool to see your link! Also...I liked the visual of the Henslow's Sparrow's song. I love his little cricket song. We have a meadow about 10 mins from my house and there are at least 5 there right now.

  3. Thanks, Kelly. You are so generous. You are lucky to have so many Henslow's sparrows. Our sparrow in Montague was such a rarity that birders from all over NE traveled to see it. Poor fellow, he was way outside of his territory and probably never found a mate.

  4. great photos - and it was great also talking with you last night about cameras and birding. I am just beginning to get the workings of my 50d under control

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