The Woodpecker and the Dead Tree

While in kitchen the other day I heard distinct clinking, rolling sound was coming from the what I hought was the roof.  “It must be those darn woodpeckers, rolling acorns down the roof” I said. I live in area that is blessed or cursed with wildlife, depending on your point of view.  The woodpeckers are one of those critters that I tend to curse more often then bless.  Red headed woodpeckers in my region, are beautiful, comical characters, that have unique language in each family group.  They do however have a dark side.  They are fanatical nut hoarders. They like to stash acorns for a rainy day.  Whether or not they ever consume the nuts is unknown. Typically they choose a hollow dead tree for this behavior.  Unfortunately for the home owner, to a woodpecker, a house is just another dead tree.  Hence my roof ridge shingles, and the shingles at the edge of the roof have lots of acorns tucked in them.

Meanwhile, the clinking rolling sound continued for months, and I didn’t pay much attention to it.  One morning while making coffee, I noticed the kitchen sink wasn’t draining very fast.  I ran the disposal to clear it with no improvement.  Then I took apart the trap under the sink, and no clog was to be found.  The slow drain became bad enough that I finally called out a plumber.  When he tried to snake the drain, he had a bit of difficulty inserting the snake.  He worked the snake more vigorously, and out came literally hundreds of acorns from the clean-out!  The mystery was finally solved, the clinking sound was those pesky woodpeckers dropping acorns down the plumbing vents.

I have found that the type of drain screens that are installed in gutters at the downspout, when placed at the top of the vent, keep the nut droppers from doing their dirty work.  This is a very inexpensive fix, that I recommend to anyone that has woodpeckers around their house.  Apply this fix preemptively before you have a problem.  Clogged drain lines can be very costly to repair, and potentially cause some serious water damage from overflows.

I had another wood pecker experience a few years back.  It was on a Home Inspection of a foreclosure property that had been vacant for over a year.  The home had a separate four car garage shop building with cedar siding.  While inspecting the roof of the house, I noticed woodpeckers going to a hole in the siding on the garage, and dropping acorns in repeatedly.  This building had been padlocked, and the Realtor and the home buyer had never been inside.  The Realtor had finally obtained a key, and was able to unlock the building.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the door and the floor of the four car garage was completely covered with acorns!  A huge pile (several feet deep) near the hole fanned out to cover the entire floor.  I don’t mean a few, I mean thousands and thousands of acorns!  We couldn’t even walk without clearing a path.  It was like walking on ball bearings.  They must have been dropping acorns through the hole in the siding for the entire year the property was vacant. I have never seen anything quite like it!

If you are having problems with these loveable creatures, don’t shoot them or harm them, they are just being themselves.  Try to make your dead tree a little less inviting to them.  Sheet metal placed at perching points works well, as they do not like the feel of metal. Plug any holes in your siding that would be an attractive spot to fill with nuts.  Also install the screens on any vents pipes.  Repair any damaged eave vents, as they find these locations to be very attractive nesting spots.  If you have a real dead tree on your property that the wood peckers seem to like, leave it alone, unless it is a danger to your house or property.  I am still occasionally awakened early by what sounds a lot like a knock on the door, as my feathered friends try to dismantle the dead tree that I live in.

In the end it comes down to choices. I chose to live in a rural area with lots of wildlife. As I write this, I hear that familiar knocking of my woodpecker neighbors.  I chose to move into their neighborhood, so I will try to be a good neighbor.  I hope they choose to  reciprocate someday,  or at least choose to find another dead tree to stuff with acorns.

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