There is a medium-sized tree on my property that’s in trouble (it’s some sort of fruiting berry tree: cherry?). I just noticed that it is way behind the other trees in terms of leaves, about 1/3 of the tree has no leaves at all and the other 2/3 seems to have a limited number of small leaves. Certainly nothing like what I would expect for late-June in New Hampshire.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that there are hundreds or thousands of small holes in rows. They are about 1/4” in diameter and absolutely cover the main trunk of the tree.

Based on a quick search it seems like maybe this is the result of a woodpecker? I do not recall hearing any incessant pecking but obviously something has done some damage to this tree.

My question is two-part: 1) is there anything that can be done to save this tree? Will it be OK with very limited leaves for the season? 2) Is there anything I should do to protect the other trees on the property? This is the only tree of its type we have, but there are many other maple, birch, and apple trees that I would hate to lose.

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    A photo will help, two photo helps more (one with holes, one with entire tree, to see it is is healthy). Also insects dig holes, and there are more dangerous. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 7:19
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi: I have uploaded some photos of the tree and a detail of the trunk.
    – Hank
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:00
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    Looks like woodpecker holes. Have you heard the bird pecking to get at insects under the bark? With that many holes, I'd expect the tree to be dead or dying. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:20
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    You won't generally hear woodpeckers when they're digging for insects. They use rapid-fire "sounding" when they find something that reverberates as a signaling behavior. When they're going for insects they use less frequent and harder blows, and the moist rotting wood that harbors insects doesn't usually echo much.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 13:55

3 Answers 3


this looks like ant damage to me; whatever did the damage, there must be some sign of them...

I dont know what kind of tree it is, but it isn't a cherry...

I think this tree is pretty much dead, if you cut it down below the damage and it regrows, it could be ok, but I think whatever kind of tree it is, it is vulnerable to whatever kind of damage this is, and you would be better off to replace it with a dissimilar tree.

EDIT: ok it is a woodpecker... It didn't look like the holes of the woodpeckers that I have seen but it does look just like the sapsucker damage I found here: Rat-a-Tat-Tat! Woodpeckers In The Garden.

  • Whatever caused the problem, there are no obvious signs. The holes start about 2 feet off the ground, but are scattered and irregular until about 5 feet up. At 5 feet this regular pattern of lines starts and completely covers the trunk and major branches up to at least 20 feet. This is the only tree of its type on our property, like I said I'm not sure what it is but it has red berries about 1/2" across which is why I thought it might be some kind of cherry.
    – Hank
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 15:32
  • @HenryJackson... I edited my answer, it is a type of woodpecker called a sapsucker... you can tell by the pattern of wavy rows of clean holes Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 15:38

There is nothing you can do to save the tree at this point: It has been girdled by a sapsucker, which means that the roots are effectively dead.

Knowing that the damage was caused by a bird of that genus, you could keep an eye out for such birds and for similar patterns of damage. Until a tree has been completely girdled it can usually still be saved.


Yellow belly sapsucker, it likely happened in early spring; they make the holes then come back later to eat any bugs. Unlikely that it caused the tree to die. The tree looks pretty far gone , now other woodpeckers will come to get insects from the tree.

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