Yellow-bellied sapsuckers feeding at red-cockaded woodpecker resin wells
Yellowbellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) excavate rows of holes into the cambium of various tree species and feed on the exuded sap (Kilham 1956, Tate 1973). Several other species including Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor), and Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) have been observed feeding at sapsucker excavations (e.g., Foster and Tate 1966; Kilham 1953,1958,1983; Southwickand Southwick 1980). We have observed typical sapsucker feeding excavations in longleaf (Pinus palustris), loblolly (P. taeda), and shortleaf (P. echinata) pines near Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity trees. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) consistently excavate resin wells adjacent to their roost and nest cavities (Ligon 1970, Dennis 1971). The resin exuded from these wells is an effective barrier against predation by rat snakes of the genus Elaphe (Rudolph et al. 1990). To our knowledge there are no published observations of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers or other avian species feeding on the exudates of these resin wells. However, we have observed Red-cockaded Woodpeckers removing drops of resin from cavity entrances and their immediate vicinity on numerous occasions. Resin drops were either released with a rapid flick of the head or wiped on bark surfaces, often on an adjacent tree.