Ben here with the Wednesday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & ...

Ben here with the Wednesday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & ...

Ben here with the Wednesday edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

The yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is one eight woodpeckers that you can find in Virginia, and in some ways it's the most unusual! For one thing, this is the only migratory woodpecker in Virginia; you'll only spot them in the winter because they breed in Canada. They're also the only sapsucker you'll find in Virginia.

So what makes a woodpecker a sapsucker? While most woodpeckers tap holes in trees in order to find insects, sapsuckers drill neat rows of shallow holes in tree bark in order to eat the sugary sap that flows out. They also eat insects, berries, and nuts like other woodpeckers, but sap often makes up the majority of their diet. It's very easy to spot a tree that a sapsucker has been feeding from; just look for a whole bunch of neatly-arranged shallow holes.

Of course, this behavior can make the yellow-bellied sapsucker a bit of a pest for us humans. Sapsuckers can kill trees by "girdling" them, which is when a ring of bark around a tree's trunk is severely damaged. Even if the damage they cause to a tree doesn't kill it outright, it can weaken a tree and make it more susceptible to disease. Fortunately for the yellow-bellied sapsucker, it's protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so no matter how much damage it causes, the law is on its side!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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