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Woodpecker damage to pine trees... need help fixing it (if possible)

 
Ted Cassidy
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Hi everyone,
Today I walked our property and found several trees in two different locations about 200 yards apart with what I believe is wood pecker damage. I can't seem to get the pictures I took up loaded but I searched online and found some images which are representative for my trees. Links shown below.

A couple are smaller holes (5" x 5" may be), mostly within 10 feet of the ground, look older because there are no chips on the snow so they have been there a while. These trees show no deterioration so I am not too worried. However one large pine tree has been pecked into almost the center of the tree very recently as in I heard the pecking earlier in the day. Huge rectangular holes in the tree (10" x 20" may be). Woodchips strewn around like crazy.

Probably sap suckers if my research is right.

Other than shooting the bird(s), does anyone have any experience/options as to what I can do to fix this the permaculture way? No way I can wrap all the trees on 40 acres in netting, burlap etc. or spray repellant on all trees. however these birds are attacking the pine trees and there aren't that many out there. Aspen... tons of them but they don't seem to go after those!

Any and all help appreciated.


Some pictures as examples:
https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/othercritters/images/woodpecker/wp-red-pine-big.jpg
http://www.walterreeves.com/gardening-q-and-a/pileated-woodpecker-hole-in-tree/
http://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5298034
http://freetiiupixanmls.cwahi.net/birds_north_america.htm (bottom couple of pictures)
 
Landon Sunrich
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There are a few different woodpecker varieties that frequent my property and the area. At least in my experience if woodpeckers are going for the tree they are already on their way out. Maybe its time to start looking at the trees and planning a selective cutting / envisioning a new canopy?
 
Bill Erickson
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Landon Sunrich wrote:There are a few different woodpecker varieties that frequent my property and the area. At least in my experience if woodpeckers are going for the tree they are already on their way out. Maybe its time to start looking at the trees and planning a selective cutting / envisioning a new canopy?


I agree with this. In my experience, trees with woodpecker activity are attractive to them because of a bug infestation - if they are full of small holes where the woodpecker has been feeding on said bugs. The nesting holes indicate that they are colonizing your stand and I'd take a good close look at the wood itself to see if it is healthy wood or has started to break down. Either way, they are colonizing for a reason so a good look is needed to see what is happening.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I do all I can to encourage woodpeckers, by leaving lots of standing dead wood.They create housing for many other insectavores. They have no cause to peck at healthy trees.
 
Akiva Silver
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True, woodpeckers eat bugs not wood. The woodpeckers are not the actual problem most likely but a sign of insects inside the tree.
It sounds like you have pileated woodpeckers if they are making holes that big. Sapsuckers make lines of tiny holes that don't penetrate too far.
 
Ted Cassidy
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Thanks for your inputs.

Yes, I know they don't eat the wood. They just destroy the heck out of the tree to get to the inside. I have seen the smaller holes in trees before just never seen the big giant caverns they made. I will just need to keep a close eye on the trees and keep track if the tree's health. and take it down if needed. I would rather keep them or course.
 
wayne stephen
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Do you have pictures of the bark you can post . Signs of advanced destruction by pine borers and other bark beetles are visible . The tree lives for years with these bugs before succoming . Woodpeckers do not tear apart healthy trees . The beetles turn pine trees bark a bronze color . At that stage the tree is on its way out. If a large number of trees in the area have them there is usually an enviromental stressor making the trees succeptible to insects . Drought ?
 
Michael Cox
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Ted Cassidy wrote:Thanks for your inputs.

Yes, I know they don't eat the wood. They just destroy the heck out of the tree to get to the inside. I have seen the smaller holes in trees before just never seen the big giant caverns they made. I will just need to keep a close eye on the trees and keep track if the tree's health. and take it down if needed. I would rather keep them or course.


Why do you feel you need to take down the tree? The woodpeckers may be damaging it, but if it is already unhealthy then surely it can stay just for the habitat it provides. If you are worried about it falling, then consider taking some of the height out of it/reducing the canopy but leaving the trunk so they have food supplies.

Holes made by woodpeckers are prime real estate for other species too - here I'd be thinking about bats and owls nesting in them.
 
Ted Cassidy
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The first set of trees I found a while back with the holes I am not worried about too much because the holes aren't that big. However the last one I found had a whole in there paste the center line of the tree and I am not sure how bad that is for the tree to have a hole that big and that deep in it.
 
Michael Cox
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Many totally hollow trees live for many many years once the core rots out. It won't make good building lumber, and the tree may eventually die, but it still serves a good environmental function in the meantime.
 
Ted Cassidy
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What makes the wood bad lumbar? Because the woodpecker other just the fact there is some bug in there which it is trying to eat?
 
Cj Sloane
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Location? (consider adding your location to your profile).
 
Ted Cassidy
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Minnesota.
 
Cj Sloane
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Ted Cassidy wrote:What makes the wood bad lumbar? Because the woodpecker other just the fact there is some bug in there which it is trying to eat?


The wood is likely to have holes from the bugs which the woodpeckers are eating.
 
Ted Cassidy
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Correct but these aren't just holes, they are more like caverns with wood chips littering probably an area of 10ft x 10ft around the tree and with chips 2" x 1". Very impressive if you think of the strength and force of a "little" bird.
 
M.K. Dorje Jr.
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One cool thing about the holes that woodpeckers make is that these "caverns" are used for owls for nesting places. In fact, many species of owls are really dependent on woodpeckers, as are many other birds. I love owls because they help keep the rodents in check around my farm and they like to sing cool songs at night. However, sapsuckers are a different story because they drill holes in live trees like my big old walnut and my cherry trees. (But I still like'em anyway, too!)
 
S Bengi
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Woodpeckers are like gaint lady bugs that kill aphids.
They are killing the bugs that hop from tree to tree and "kill" them.
So you really should be encouraging them.

The caverns that the woodpeckers leave behind are used by owls that kill voles and other rodents at night.

I have seen healthy looking maple trees with hollow trunks so at times it might be hard to tell if the trees are "healthy" unless you know what to look for.
woodpeckers pecking would be one sign that it is not healthy.
 
Jay Hayes
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Ted,

What species of pine are the wood peckers attacking? Red, White, Jack? If it is Red Pine the trees being attacked almost certainly have red heart fungus. I'm not certain if white pines get that or not. It is not a particularly terrible thing, but it does represent an older or less vigorous tree and one that has little to no use for lumber as the heartwood is now a brittle mess. Wood peckers don't really have the ability to excavate a cavity to the center of a tree without the aide of rotten wood inside. Many species of larger peckers will nest exclusively in large red hearted pines throughout the mid west and south. Since the strength of trees is mostly compromised from a rotting core there is little to worry about from the added damage from the woodpeckers. They really aren't hurting much. There is pretty much no chance you will convince the birds to move into aspen trees. Chances are they are much younger and less rotten, and the life history of many species of wood peckers will draw them to pines regardless.

Hope the info helps as I have very little helpful advice.

J
 
Linda Crawford
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I have a few very big holes plus many smaller holes in three cedar trees, largest hole 14" by 8". Family tell me a large pilliated woodpecker and two smaller fellows were chowing down on carpenter ants for two days while I was away last April (north of Toronto).
I see that you were discussing pine specifically so my concern may be a bit off topic but I think it's relevant,regardless of the type of tree or reason for the wholes, I hate to take the trees down even though they are not very healthy and clearly carpenter ants have taken over (and I worry about where the ants will head next if I do remove the trees)..my question is this; is it better for the tree to leave the holes open or is there some action that should be taken to fill the holes and if so, with what?
I have considered cutting them from their 40 & 50 ft. heights to 15 or 20 feet to avoid major damage if they fall, but the holes would remain.

Thanks
Linda
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Woodpecker damage - seeking carpenter ants
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Woodpecker damage - seeking carpenter ants (2)
 
Roy Hinkley
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I'm seeing the same thing on Cedar trees the last 3 or 4 years at the cottage in Grey County, Ontario along with the large wood pecker I haven't noticed in the past.
They're being attracted by something there that they must be eating and creating habitat for something else. I have no plans to interfere.
 
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