While many woodpecker species hammer their beaks against trees to get at the insects inside, some are after a different food source. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Piciformes: Picidae: Sphyrapicus varius), like other sapsuckers, feed predominantly on the sugary juices of the trees themselves. Although known to bore sapwells into the wood of over a thousand tree species, these birds prefer trees with a high sugar content. Maples, birches, and hickories are among their favorites. They will often target diseased or dying trees with softer wood, making excavation easier. Nests are often conveniently located in the trees on which they feed.
Although Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers feed mostly on sap, they don’t mind ingesting the occasional insect that gets in the way. Sometimes they will even make the effort to snatch a flying insect from mid-air. When not tending their sapwells the sweet liquid sometimes attracts other animals with a taste for sugar. Hummingbirds, bats, porcupines, and ants are all known to steal a treat when they can.