There's a 20-foot dead piece of pine tree standing right where I least need it to be, and it has a big hole in the top where a great little hairy woodpecker lives. He spends hours going over that tree eating bugs, and it's fun to watch him. The tree really does need to come down, though, not just for design reasons but also because it becomes more of a danger the more rotten it gets. But I can't bear the thought of knocking down that little guy's home. Any advice? This is Zone 8, Athens, GA, and it's been in the fifties.
William Bronson wrote:Any chance of cutting down and relocating the dead trunk?
Perhaps in manageable sections?
That's a thought, although I would have to hire a tree service $$$ to climb it and take off enough of the top to save him and his house. If I knew he didn't have a family in there, maybe I could fell it when I know he's out and about, then prop his house up somewhere else. I wonder if it's possible to make him want to move without traumatizing him.
Any way to tie part of it so it can't fall in a bad place? Chopping it into pieces may cause him to abandon it.
I have the same situation with a rotted tree near the chicken coop, occasionally a big piece falls on the netting (but it isn't a threat to the birds).
posted 4 months ago
Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Any way to tie part of it so it can't fall in a bad place? Chopping it into pieces may cause him to abandon it.
Maybe I do need to just get it down. I'm wondering what the best time of year to do this would be so he can find alternatives and won't die. I did set up a large crescent of cut brush and small logs around an area I intend to clear of bindweed and poison ivy prior to building a Hugelkultur bed, and the other birds seem to be in love with it. Maybe the woodpecker could live there too for a while until he can figure out what to do. I just don't want to kill or injure him or traumatize him too much, because he's a great little bird.
I'd just talk to local bird people to see when woodpeckers start laying eggs by you. Then cut the tree down a month prior. It should be through the colder part of winter so it should be ok without a home by then.
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
posted 4 months ago
Mike Jay wrote:I'd just talk to local bird people to see when woodpeckers start laying eggs by you. Then cut the tree down a month prior. It should be through the colder part of winter so it should be ok without a home by then.
I just emailed my question to our local ag extension agent and hopefully will get a reply from them soon.
It's really going to be interesting to see what kind of winter we have here. It's 66 degrees outside now! Thanks, everyone, for all the advice.
Miles Flansburg wrote:Might be able to get some help/advise at the cooper lab?
Heard back from Bob Cooper with a lovely, reassuring email that gives me a path forward with my little guy, who may well be a downy woodpecker, not a hairy one ;). Here's what he said:
Your woodpecker is either a hairy or downy woodpecker. Downy woodpeckers are much more common around Athens. They look almost identical except for the bill length. Hairy woodpeckers have a bill that is as long as the diameter of the head. Downy woodpecker bills are shorter.
Anyway, this is a problem that woodpeckers face all the time. Because they nest in dead trees, and dead trees eventually fall, woodpeckers have adapted to the sudden loss of a shelter. They probably have other potential shelters scoped out, so if you cut the tree the bird will probably survive. They don't nest until late March or April, so there won't be any eggs.
However, to maximize the probability of survival, you could wait until a stretch of warm weather is forecast, so if the bird has suboptimal (or no) shelter for a night or two, it won't be fatal. Also, you might consider putting up a nest box nearby prior to cutting the tree. They are easy and cheap to build. You can get plans on the internet. Woodpecker boxes should be placed as high in the tree as possible to maximize the probability of occupancy.
When you cut the tree, you might not see the bird again, which isn't unusual. It doesn't mean the bird is dead, just probably dispersed.
Hope this helps. I have CC'd one of my graduate students, Heather Levy, who has worked with woodpeckers more than I have, to see if she has anything to add.
Nice, I was going to suggest building a birdhouse of some sort and mounting it on a nearby tree, but wasn't sure if that would work. I put up a birdhouse, here in Colorado, that a friend from Georgia made of "heartwood"(I think that is what he called it?) and I have seen a small woodpecker using it on and off for a couple of years.