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The Real Impact of Woodpeckers on Trees (It’s Not What You Think!)

The Real Impact of Woodpeckers on Trees (It’s Not What You Think!)

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Woodpeckers are birds that are pretty famous and most people know about them. Even if you can’t see a woodpecker in your yard, it’s very likely that you’re going to hear it in action.

The sounds that woodpeckers make when they’re pecking trees will be very distinct. You might hear woodpeckers in your yard during certain times of the year because it’s normal for them to be around.

However, some people get worried about woodpeckers because they think that they might harm their trees. Do woodpeckers kill trees or is this not something that you need to worry about?

Keep reading to learn more about woodpeckers and the impact that they have on trees. You should feel more informed and will be able to make good decisions to help your trees moving forward.

Woodpeckers Can Cause Minor Damage to Trees

Anyone who has observed a tree that has a woodpecker in it can see that the woodpecker will cause damage to the tree. You probably know that a woodpecker will drill into a tree with its powerful beak already.

If you look at the tree after it has been drilled by a woodpecker, then you’re going to see obvious surface damage. The birds do this because they’re drilling into the tree to try to find insects that they can eat.

The damage to the tree is actually very minor and it isn’t something that is likely to kill a tree. Unless you have a tree that is in a bad state already, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to worry about a woodpecker killing your tree.

So the basic answer that you’re looking for is “no.” A woodpecker is not going to be able to kill a healthy tree, and woodpeckers might actually be beneficial to trees in certain ways.

You should keep reading to learn about why woodpeckers can be beneficial to trees. You’ll also learn a bit about why woodpeckers drill into trees like they do.

Understanding Woodpeckers

There are three basic reasons why woodpeckers drill into trees or tap them like they do. The most obvious reason is that the woodpeckers are looking for food.

Woodpeckers will use their powerful beaks to drill into a tree so that they can pull out various insects. It allows them to feed on insects that burrow into trees, and they’re very good at locating bugs.

Another reason why woodpeckers will drill into trees has to do with communication. You might notice woodpeckers will tap trees to communicate with each other, and this is often referred to as drumming.

Drumming is something that woodpeckers have to do since they aren’t capable of birdsong. Drumming is something that can help these birds to attract mates, communicate certain things, and it can even deter predators in some instances.

Finally, woodpeckers will drill into trees with their beaks for nesting purposes. They will try to create a cavity in the tree so that they can nest and stay safe.

You might assume that this would be horribly damaging to trees, but it actually isn’t. Woodpeckers drill into the heartwood when nesting, and this is a part of the tree that is already dead.

This doesn’t damage the tree in any significant way, and it actually helps to create shelter for other animals. Once the woodpeckers leave, squirrels and other such animals will utilize the cavities that were created by woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers Get Rid of Parasites

Woodpeckers get rid of parasites by feeding on them. You need to keep in mind that woodpeckers are going to trees to seek out bugs that they can feed on.

The bugs that woodpeckers find by drilling into trees with their beaks are harmful to the trees. In many ways, the woodpeckers are helping the trees to thrive by removing the bugs from the trees.

This means that woodpeckers actually play an important role in nature. The local woodpecker population is going to help trees to stay healthy by feeding on parasitic bugs that harm trees.

If you’re worried about the woodpeckers that are in your trees right now, then you likely shouldn’t be. The reason that they’re there is that they detect harmful bugs that they can eliminate by doing their thing.

You should never try to deter woodpeckers from coming to your trees. So long as your trees are healthy, the surface damage that is done by a woodpecker is not going to be a big deal at all.

Some Types of Woodpeckers Might Be More Harmful Than Others

When talking about standard woodpeckers, it’s easy to see that the benefits outweigh any potential concerns. It’s a bit different when you’re talking about woodpeckers that suck the sap out of trees, though.

There are actually several different kinds of woodpeckers out there, and the type that you’re dealing with can make a difference when considering the impact that they have on trees. Woodpeckers that are “sapsuckers” have yellow bellies, red breasts, and are red naped.

These birds drill many shallow holes into trees in an effort to get sap. They seek out trees that have thin bark that will allow them to do this with ease.

The small holes don’t impact the health of the tree much at all. However, birds could cause some harm to a tree if they aggressively feed on it.

This could have the potential to kill a tree over time, but it’s not a likely scenario that you need to worry about. Sapsuckers are capable of killing trees, but it’s probably best not to concern yourself with these birds too much since the prevalence of problems like this isn’t overly high.

Keep Your Trees Healthy

Truly, the best thing that you can do to protect your trees is to try to keep them healthy. You want to ensure that they’re getting what they need so that they can thrive.

Treating your trees might help to keep certain insects at bay as well. Woodpeckers will generally only come around if they detect insects and want to find a meal.

The presence of woodpeckers means that parasitic insects are likely there. If a woodpecker finds nothing in your tree, then it’s going to move on, and that’s why treating your tree might sometimes be the right way to go.

Worrying about insects and what they can do to your tree will be more fruitful than being concerned about woodpeckers. The parasitic insects can cause real harm and they are responsible for killing many trees each year.

You’ll also want to be more concerned about tree diseases than many other things. If your tree is diseased in some way or has a fungal infection, then it’s going to be less likely to survive.

Healthy trees will have no problem tolerating the minor damage that woodpeckers do. It might be wise to check with local tree experts to have your trees examined every so often.

This can help you to determine if your tree has any health issues that need to be addressed. You can also get advice about what you should do to keep your tree healthy so that you can make the right moves.

If you keep doing things like this, then you’re not going to have to worry nearly as much. Your trees will be able to thrive for a long time and you’ll never need to be concerned when you hear the sound of woodpeckers.

Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers do cause some damage to trees, but that doesn’t mean that they normally kill them. Standard woodpeckers that drill into trees searching for bugs might actually be doing a good thing for the trees.

It’s good for the trees to have the woodpeckers drill into them to remove parasitic bugs. It will help the trees to stay healthy and the minor damage from the pecking isn’t going to be enough to truly harm the tree.

Sapsuckers can be a bit more dangerous for your trees, but they’re still not usually worth worrying about. These types of woodpeckers drill small shallow holes into trees to get the sap to come out.

The small holes won’t harm the tree normally, but if a bird feeds aggressively on one tree, then it could kill the tree over time. This doesn’t happen all that often, but it isn’t impossible for a sapsucker to kill a tree.

Now that you know that woodpeckers are basically just a normal part of the order of things, it’ll be easier to stop worrying about them. They can damage trees to an extent, but they also help the natural order of forests to continue.

The cavities that they peck out in trees help many animals to find shelter. They get rid of bugs that can harm trees and they’re just a part of nature that needs to be there.

You don’t need to take action to try to protect your trees from woodpeckers. Just ensure that your trees are healthy and they shouldn’t have much to fear from woodpeckers and sapsuckers.

If you have any friends that are concerned about woodpeckers, then let them know everything that you found out. It should help people to feel more at ease when they’re concerned about their trees, and it’ll keep them from doing unnecessary things to try to keep woodpeckers away.


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