Maple Tree/Woodpecker

A client has a maple tree that she believes is being attacked by woodpeckers and would like to know how to best protect the tree. I personally didn’t see any woodpecker damage but I told her I would get a second opinion. The tree does have a quite a few frost cracks.


  1. What type of maple? and where is the location? The tree looks like it is not in good health. Could be an deficiency in the soil causing the tree to have health issues -which will attract insects and then woodpeckers will be attracted to the insects.

  2. Red maple. Southern Wisconsin. Any idea what could be added to the soil to save it? It is about 5 years old and had been in good health until this summer. The clients treat each year with fertilizer spikes and it is located in the middle of a lawn with healthy grass.

    • Amanda: I’m not sure that’s a true red maple. It is likely some other type of maple that’s been bred for red foliage. I can’t get a good enough look at the individual leaves to tell. There’s a lot of damage on the trunk, so the prognosis for the tree is not good. I suspect it was injured over the winter. Check with Laura Jull regarding fertilizer spikes. I don’t think she’s a fan of those. I typically don’t recommend fertilizing trees unless the client has a soil analysis that indicates a need to fertilize. Hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have questions. Brian (:))

    • I also wonder if it has been planted too deep? The trunk does not indicate any root flare at the base, which could mean girdling roots. And that damage on the trunk indicates poor health for more than just this season. Fertilizing an ailing tree will just cause it more problems.

  3. Regarding the woodpeckers: I’d check the trunk for signs of insect exit holes. Woodpeckers can go to trees for insect beneath the bark. If insect exit holes are found, it’s not a good prognosis. Most insect borers are secondary pests that go after compromised trees.

    Another possibility might be sapsuckers (a type of woodpecker). These will create a series of small holes in a linear or grid-like pattern to feed on sap (and insects don’t necessarily need to be present). This can be common, especially on smaller trees. I don’t see any signs of this type of damage in the photos, but it wouldn’t hurt for the client to thoroughly check the trunk.


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