Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wild About Woodpeckers

Why would anyone want to attract those noisy, wood drumming, flying wonders to their backyard? After all, don’t they peck holes in house siding? Perhaps, but woodpeckers are among the most colorful and interesting birds to watch. Their toes are designed differently from most other birds; two toes point forward and two point back--enabling the bird to walk upside down on trees and perch where other birds cannot. Most species of woodpeckers eat insects as a large part of their diet, and usually people are willing to share their backyard insects with the birds. Some woodpecker species are becoming rare and need help to avoid extinction.

Woodpeckers can be found just about anywhere there are trees. If you have large, old trees in your yard or live near a park or woodlot, you may have one or more species of woodpeckers in the neighborhood. To supplement existing vegetation, plant a few native fruit trees and bushes. Sapsuckers and redheaded woodpeckers enjoy eating berries as well as insects.

Snags are great for attracting woodpeckers. What’s a snag, you ask? It is a dead tree. Woodpeckers seek out the insects in the decaying material and, since woodpeckers are cavity nesters, they will use the holes in trees to raise their brood. As long as dead or dying trees do not pose a hazard, you may want to leave them in your yard for the birds to use. If not, woodpeckers will accept nesting boxes.  The Guernsey SWCD has quality cedar nest boxes available for purchase.  We also have nestbox plans for those of you who like to build your own.

Suet attracts a variety of birds. Suet feeders are available for sale from the Guernsey SWCD, both separately, and in combination with bird seed feeders.   The following recipe for homemade suet has proved successful in the Midwest for attracting woodpeckers and other birds, such as tufted titmouse, nuthatch, and chickadee. Knead together: 1 part vegetable shortening, 1 part peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), 1 part flour, and 4 parts cornmeal. Children enjoy mixing up a batch of this concoction.

If you have a problem with woodpeckers drilling holes in your home, there are measures you can take to reduce the problem. The woodpeckers are foraging for insects that live in the cracks of the siding. If you caulk the cracks and repaint the surface, it will reduce the number of insects living in your siding. Then, use the other methods mentioned to feed those flying beauties and you can enjoy their antics in your backyard.

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