Tree selection and foraging height of wintering Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) in an urban environment.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) drill sap holes in a variety of tree species to consume sap and bast. We examined the use of tree species in urban South Florida, a wintering ground for sapsuckers where their tree preferences have not previously been described. We determined that black olive (Bucida buceras) and tropical almond (Terminalia catappa) trees are strongly preferred and are used to a greater extent than all other trees. Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) and baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) are also drilled but are less likely to become host trees with ≥100 bands of sap holes. In urban areas where black olive and tropical almond are grown, these trees are used so extensively by the sapsucker that bands of sap holes usually extend to within a meter of the ground surface. The urban setting of these trees potentially exposes them to predation by feral cats and puts them at risk of collisions with windows.