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Thứ Bảy, 18 tháng 1, 2014

A bird that drinks tree sap - Southeast Missourian

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The yellow-bellied sapsucker is one of four species of small- to medium-sized woodpeckers known as sapsuckers to live in North America. It is the only sapsucker to show up regularly in Southeast Missouri.

Most of the year, this little bird lives in northeastern parts of the U. S. and Canada, where it nests and raises its young. But this bird migrates south for winter and can at that time be found in the Southeast Missouri woods.

A tree girdled with what look like nail holes is a sure sign that a yellow-bellied sapsucker was there.

These holes are kept open and seeping sap for at least two reasons.

It was once believed that this bird was tapping into the tree's sap solely for drinking the sap. Just why the bird drilled hundreds of holes in rings around its host tree seemed odd.

But once the bird was observed eating small insects caught in the sap, there seemed to be no oddity at all.

It is now known that the sapsucker is making traps for small insects to get stuck in.

Day after day, a single yellow-bellied sapsucker will return to the same host tree and visit the holes it has made in order to eat the insects.

It makes more sense that this ingenious bird drills hundreds of holes to catch insects, than to get sap. A few holes kept open would produce enough sap for the small bird with much less work.

Finally, placing the holes in rings around the tree assures that a maximum number of insects will encounter the holes.

Many different kinds of trees are used by yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Preferred trees are those with soft, shallow bark such as pine trees, tulip trees and birch trees.

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is about 7 1/2 inches long as an adult.

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