Jerry Davis: Give birds a sap drink

March 15, 2018 GMT

Usually we provide water, food, shelter and perches for birds.

Squirrels and other creatures come without an invitation. One thing missing until the yellow-bellied sapsuckers return to drill their rows of holes in the bark is tree sap.

The hummingbirds have not yet returned, either, so there are no liquid feeders for those birds who prefer a sugar fix now and then. Be certain, too, that there are no nectar-laden flowers bursting open.

There is a way to satisfy all, even the occasional squirrel, opossum, skunk and raccoon with some sugary sap.

Any maple tree species, including compound-leafed maples, better known as box elders, are tapped for sap collecting about now. Birches fill in, too, but are not prime candidates. Drilling infrequent holes into the lower sides of branches and even a trunk tap now and then will not hurt the tree any more than the maples tapped for making syrup, candy and sugar.


Woodpeckers of all types, nuthatches, tufted titmice and many more will drink the sap or peck at the sapcicles that sometimes form over night or during a cold morning.

The infrequent holes heal just as they do in the sugar bush without any tree-doctoring, painting or plugging.

To add some interest, allow some sap to collect in a bowl, dish or saucer, providing a ledge for birds to perch and drink.

If sapcicles do form, just leave them to drop or be dismantled by squirrels or other animals. On warm days they’ll drop on their own by mid-morning.

These birds and other animals who steal from a sapsucker’s drill hole usually do not drill into maples, but select fruit trees instead, might be in for a special treat, too, if they return before the maple sap stops flowing.