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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Decoying acorn woodpeckers

Can you fool acorn woodpeckers to use a fakey-looking granary?

If you don't know about woodpecker granaries  -- they are the pinnacle of the acorn woodpeckers craft -- live or dead trees and limbs riddled with holes stuffed with acorns.

They are such curiosities that outdoorsy Californians snatch up fallen chunks to decorate their gardens and homes.

When there's a shortage of granaries the woodpeckers get in trouble.

I have plenty of oaks around my house, but no woodpecker granary.

Noisy peckers visit, but fly off with their booty.

I sometimes awake in the dead of night wondering -- would the local peckers adopt a man-made granary?

How picky are they about the age and density of the wood?

How high would I have to hang the thing?

In November I finally got the lead out and built a fake woodpecker granary.

For a pilot test I drilled holes of 4 sizes in a 4-foot length of dead canyon live oak.

Then I put the granddaughters to work collecting acorns -- tanbark oak, Canyon live oak, and black oak.

Stuffed the holes.

Hung it near the house on a black oak.

The camera trap took 44 photos in 8 days and then the batteries died.

Ignorant of the power failure and with hopes periodically kindled by the endearing rukka-rukka of calling peckers, I waited another 20 days.

Only one woodpecker was photographed, and only barely as you can see.

There may have been others triggering the camera, but if so, they stuck to the other side of the log.

I'll keep that in mind the next time I set the camera.


brdpics said...

Very interesting project- hope to hear more on this in the future!!

Anonymous said...

when we moved here we had a lot of woodpeckers. They seemed to prefer dead "Digger" ( sorry, I will never get used to calling them Grey Pines) Pines and our wood shake roof. When we finally replaced it with something less flammable, the roofers found many pounds of acorns tucked neatly under the shakes. They also riddled the fascia boards with holes- I'm sure they were confounded when the acorns they tried to insert fell through the holes.
We had a successful Acorn Woodpecker nest in a dead limb on a Blue Oak in our yard last spring. John was going to take The limb down until he saw the male bringing bugs to the female. We enjoyed watching the progress of the family until the fledgling was Just about ready to leave the nest hole. Alas, we found it on our deck dead - we think it flew into our sliding glass door. :-( . Over the years, the woodpeckers have mostly disappeared here along with the dead Digger Pines and have seemed to be replaced by squirrels- both grey and the introduced red one. we have turned into the 'burbs.


owlman said...

Ingenious project and perhaps it will reveal something that may lead to another popular hobby.
Got batteries?

cliff said...

Great idea for a test, sorry about the dead batteries.

For woodpeckers I will use 3 or 4 cameras to get every angle around the tree, they seem to have fun peeking from the back side of a tree while I'm watching.

BLD in MT said...

What a very interesting "science project!"