BEMIDJI, Minn. — Minnesota is home to many types of woodpeckers, but the yellow-bellied sapsucker has the best name out of all of them — at least in my opinion.
They aren’t one you will often see at your bird feeder, but if you have young birch or maple trees in your yard and you live in the sapsucker’s range, you just might get to see one drilling its sap wells firsthand.
They are what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources refers to as a short-distance migrant. Some of them — often juveniles that haven’t quite figured out what to do when it gets cold outside — attempt to remain in the state throughout winter. They will feed on crab apples or other fruit in addition to seeds and suet at bird feeders.
Those that do migrate, however, usually return to the north by late March, and then become a rather common sight and are quite vocal in some areas by mid-April.
This has definitely been the case in my backyard this past week. We have three maple trees total and at one point I saw five sapsuckers on one tree at a time.The sapsucker is known for drilling holes in the trunks of trees and feeding on the sap that flows out of them. They then lick sap from these holes, and also eat bits of the tree tissue, as well as insects that are attracted to the sap.
The holes are often positioned so uniformly that the bark of a tree can appear to be punctured like a peg board, which would explain the many holes in our maple trees.
If everything going on in the world has you down, just go sit outside for a bit and watch the birds. It sure works for me.