Is woodpecker remodeling or destroying our finch birdhouse?


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May 21, 2023

Is woodpecker remodeling or destroying our finch birdhouse?

DEAR JOAN: We enjoy our backyard “wildlife” — hummingbirds, squirrels,

DEAR JOAN: We enjoy our backyard "wildlife" — hummingbirds, squirrels, alligator lizards and more.

We have a birdhouse for small birds, finches and the like, above our deck. The other day we noticed something unusual — small wood chips — below the birdhouse on the deck. We were puzzled but cleaned them up and didn't think too much about it until the next day when there were more chips.

Then there was old nesting material on the deck.

With all this activity, we started watching for the culprit. It turns out a ladder back woodpecker has commandeered the birdhouse, enlarged the birdhouse hole — thus the wood chips — and pitched out the old nesting material to make the bird house his or her own.

Is this common behavior for a ladder back or do we just have an opportunistic bird?

Bill White, Bay Area

DEAR BILL: Let's first address the issue of what type of woodpecker you have. I don't think it's a ladder-backed woodpecker only because they would be extremely rare in Northern California. They tend to stay mostly down south, although with the weather changes, more and more creatures are changing their patterns.

It was more likely a Nuttall's woodpecker, which has similar markings to the ladder-backed. But we have a few varieties of woodpeckers, so it could also have been the hairy or the downy woodpecker.

Woodpeckers nest in cavities, mostly ones they’ve made themselves. They’ll knock on trees, listening for a sound that indicates where the wood might be softest. Once they make their choices, they’ll peck at the tree and excavate a small, cozy home.

After nesting season has passed, they’ll look for new places to spend the winter, and it would appear this woodpecker is considering your birdhouse as a good spot, at least for a while.

If you’re worried that the remodeling will destroy the birdhouse you should take it down before it reaches a point of no return. You can purchase woodpecker-approved birdhouses, although I imagine the woodpecker still will do some work on it.

The woodpeckers’ pecking can be annoying, but they also provide a crucial service for other cavity dwellers. The woodpeckers excavate the hole and when they move out, other birds move in.

Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek has added two creatures to its menagerie of animal ambassadors — two Mexican free-tailed bats.

The bats are among the most abundant in the United States, but because of habitat loss, they are considered a species of concern in California, where populations have been on the decline.

The folks at Lindsay have asked the public to help name the bats. Visitors can vote on the most popular names, which will be announced during the center's annual Howl-ooo-ween celebration, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Lindsay also is featuring a "Not-So-Scary Animals" event through Oct. 29, introducing children and their parents to the creatures that might seem scary, but aren't.

The wildlife center is at 1931 First Ave., Walnut Creek.

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