Preparing a woodpecker for winter.

First, he finds a dead tree and starts making holes for the acorns. Each hole is made very thoughtfully, because if the hole is large, other birds can easily steal the acorn. If the hole is narrow, the nut can break and deteriorate. By the end of summer, the woodpecker’s “jewelry” work ends, by this time the acorns ripen and take their places in the tree. The trunk of a large tree can hold about 50,000 acorns, allowing the bird a satisfying winter.

In the spring and fall, hundreds of homeowners wake up to a drumming on metal outside their home or become aware of holes in their siding created by a wood chipper.

Four New England woodpeckers are known to drill and drum on houses: hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, and northern flickers. Downy woodpeckers seem to be the most common offenders in Massachusetts.

Woodpeckers are excellently adapted to life in trees. Their feet have two toes pointed forward and pointed backward with sharp pointed claws. This enables them to scale vertical tree trunks and other vertical surfaces in search of food and shelter.

When they drill logs, they actually cut the wood and make holes to forage or create cavities, places to build nests or nests. In the fall, woodpeckers dig several nesting holes in preparation for the coming winter. In the spring, there is a revival of digging activity in preparation for the nesting season.

Drumming, on the other hand, is what a woodpecker does to attract a mate or to alert competition and mark its territory. Drumming often occurs in the spring.

Although woodpeckers serve as useful members of the wildlife community, they can sometimes come into conflict with humans. A log house is simply a large, oddly shaped tree that birds often choose as burrows or drumming sites.

Woodpeckers tend to attack homes that are mostly dark colors (browns and grays) or naturally stained cedar or redwood. The damage usually occurs in the shingling or corner posts, and the holes are usually quarter to half dollar in size and quite deep.

You can find dozens of holes, and the damage can be extensive. Often there is no particular pattern to the placement of holes. Most of the house digging takes place in the fall (September to November).

While it’s true that wood chips are drilled for insects, that doesn’t mean you have a harmful infestation of insects. Instead, a woodchuck may be an inexperienced juvenile stressed for food in the fall.

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