Sphyrapicus varius (Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers) are winter residents of mature Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) forests in the southeastern US. Sapsuckers pierce the bark of mature pines to create wells on living trees and consume the sugar-rich exudate and insects attracted to this food source. To determine sapsucker preferences for individual trees, for locations along boles, and for edge vs. interior habitat, we surveyed an old-growth Pinus palustris stand in lower Alabama with recent sapsucker activity. Individual tree characteristics and stand conditions were evaluated to assess their influence on the number and location of sap wells. Of 596 pines sampled, 74 (12.4%) contained wells. Sapsuckers selected trees with greater diameter at breast height (mean dbh of welled trees = 40.4 cm; non-welled trees = 24.6 cm; P < 0.01). Among pines with wells, sapsuckers fed differentially on different aspects and stem heights. Sap wells were concentrated on the north aspect of the bole (P < 0.05), where wells were 40% more likely to occur than any other aspect. No stand characteristics (plot distance to stand edge, plot basal area, plot tree density, 5-year radial increment growth) significantly influenced sapsucker tree-selection patterns.
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