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I read last month’s article by Weldon Lee about Downy Woodpeckers with great interest. According to that article woodpeckers are our friends. But as far as I’m concerned they’re one of the breed of pests that make my life miserable every April, when they start drilling holes in my house. True, the villains are Hairy Woodpeckers, but the distinction is lost on me when “nature’s tree surgeon” starts doing an exploratory operation on my house.
My house is in two parts. The older section is native pine which has been in place since 1919 and has a hardness factor just short of diamond, but the other half is cedar and only about 20 years old. It’s nice and soft and is considered by the woodpeckers to be the perfect medium for nest building. They drill a hole about four inches across and once through the outer layer they strike gold in the form of insulation, which they apparently regard as the quintessential nest material.
I am often not here for much of April, so when get back I look around for the latest holes in my house and for the past several years I’ve not been disappointed. Then I have to cut a piece of wood to fit, stuff the hole with insulation, fit the wood in and seal it with caulking. I now have four such patches on my house and frankly I’m getting pretty annoyed with nature’s gift of the woodpecker. A few more years of this and I‘ll have a polka-dot house.
Wildlife is one of the great benefits of living in our mountains and I do my bit; I have hummingbird feeders and seed feeders and even a salt lick for the deer and elk. Several coyotes and rabbits have our house on their regular rounds because they know we throw our scraps out the back door for them and we’re always happy to see them. (I don’t count the dark gray shepherd/husky mix with a white face and a collar. It runs loose in my neighborhood and if you know to whom it belongs I’d be pleased to hear from you) But I refuse to share my house with pine squirrels, who seem to have a secret route to my attic, or with woodpeckers. It would be different if we could coexist in peace, but I draw the line at drilling holes in my walls.
I have decided to fight back. Certainly this problem isn’t as vexing as having a piece of roof blow off or the septic system backing up, but you either live with a problem or you look for a solution.
I’ve asked several people if they know of ways to discourage the woodpeckers. Some have suggested cloth strips dangling from the eaves. That seems to be worth trying. Others suggest fake owls, so I bought two of them and will hang them from the eaves as well. If you have a sure cure please let me know; I’m open to suggestions. But if I were a Hairy Woodpecker and had found the perfect nest, I don’t think I’d be much discouraged by cloth strips and fake owls or much of anything else. I may be willing to fight, but I think I’m probably in a losing battle.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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