Wood Peckers Return For The Fourth Year


Five years ago something drilled a perfectly round hole in the tree in my front yard. I blocked the hole thinking it was a beetle. No matter what plugged the hole it was drilled through or a new hole appeared.

It was perplexing.

Some time during the summer the truth came to light. Listening to a gardening show I learned it wasn't a beetle, but a bird. A woodpecker. My stomach churned when I realized woodpeckers were making those round holes. What had I done! Those poor adult birds had to work so hard to launch their babies. They must have gotten the babies out for they came back the next year.

No body paid much attention to the birds the second year. We certainly didn't disturb them.

Two years later woodpecker fascination struck. It was apparent the chicks were about to launch. Every one started spending time on the front lawn watching as the little ones peeked out of their nest then duck back in. The mamma was shy and was difficult to see . She would hide in the leafy branches until nobody was around. The neighborhood kids would come and sit silently watching for a glimpse of the birds. This year I sat for hours trying to film the birds for a hub. Success. The babies launched and my front yard was quiet again.

Now after two years of watching these charming little bird you may ask what could possibly require another hub.

Tree Damage

We have been in a drought here for nearly three years. The tree my feathered friends like was in poor shape years ago. A botanist friend gave us ideas on caring for the tree and it worked for a long time. The drought is not helping our landscape. What was intended to be a light pruning the limb with the nest broke off , which led to more serious punning. This isn't the first limb we have lost to woodpeckers. For a couple of years before they began nesting the woodpeckers would drill bugs out of this tree.

It was sad to think our friends wouldn't be back.

Several friends have discussed how persistent woodpeckers can be. These friends have nets around their homes in the mountains to keep woodpeckers from drilling holes, can leave winter cabins drafty. Some of our neighbors have placed owl statues on their roofs to scare the woodpeckers away.

O.K., so I didn't think the birds would be back.

Woody And Woodyann Did Come Back

Woody did come back. Last year I thought Woody looked different. This year I know Woody is is different. We don't have one nest we have two. They both have baby birds in them. The nest nearest to the original is barely six feet off the ground. The Woodyann, who nested there, is the original mother. When she first nested there were hardly any leafs on the tree, which was a concern because the hole is so close to the ground. She is pretty with bright red head feathers, petite and shy. Last year the mother was much larger and not nearly as shy. She may be the reason we didn't see the original pair of woodpeckers. That bird found the original nest occupies this year and drilled a new nest high on the tree, Those babies are much younger than nestlings in nest number one.

The reason we know this is? The new nest was very quiet long after we could hear the first chicks. When we first heard the chicks it was almost a hum. Eventually the hum turned into peep, peep, peep. They get very loud when it's dinner time. Dinner time with two nests in the tree gets very loud. At night the peeps don't stop they just become softer and softer. Early morning the must be exhausted because there is silence.

Woodpeckers Nightmare

We had a full house for dinner tonight. There was lots of in and out while the birds played hide and seek. Now it is quiet; I sneak out to look at our feathered residents much to my horror there in the crook of the tree is ARCO, the neighbors cat. The babies are safe and so are the parents as long as they are in the nest, but that darn cat was only a paws reach from either parent feeding the babies on the outside of the tree.

These birds are slowly killing my tree, but they are fascinating. The cat annoys my dogs but he's a nice cat otherwise. Cats have been feeding on birds forever. I can't do anything to protect the birds. Let's just hope the woodpecker parents are smarter than the cat.

Why Woody and Woodyann May Be Smarter Than Arco.

Woody and Woodyann are specially equipped to avoid cats. They are fast. They are shy, and they built their home inside a tree. They frequently hang outside of the tree nest to feed the babies, which could be their demise.

Woody and Woodyann are Downy woodpeckers and travel with other small birds. There is a pair of Wood Thrush with a nest above the front door. They are more susceptible to Arco than the woodpeckers. After contemplating what to do about the cat I have decided short of putting a twenty four hour watch on the tree there is little I can do. Nature has its cycles.

Feathered Facts

Woodpeckers are fascinating. They are uniquely designed to poke holes into trees and houses

  1. They make holes all year round.
  2. Some of the holes are designed to hold their winter store of acorns and other food. Some of the holes are for nests.
  3. The Downy and Acorn Woodpeckers tend to be residential dwellers. Which certainly explains why they live in our tree.
  4. I suspect we have a pair of Downy's and a pair of Acorn woodpeckers. They look very similar.
  5. The reason woodpeckers can peck at wood without hurting themselves is they have air pockets n their brains that act as cushions when they hammer.
  6. Woodpeckers have long narrow tongues that can reach into holes and put insects into their mouths.
  7. Some Downy woodpeckers migrate south with smaller birds. These woodpecker don't always migrate. Here in northern California there really isn't much need for migrating.

Got Any Better Ideas?


The Story Is Not Done

Writing at my desk determined not to worry about the cat and birds there was a commotion outside the door. A couple of crows were dive bombing the tree. The last time I heard a commotion of this sort my dog had brought a crow into the house. He was a bird dog. It was then the meaning of a murder of crows became clear. So looking out the screen and nearly getting hit by a crow who should I spot. ARCO! Well if that wasn't a wonder. Crows attacking a cat in a tree. The bird book says woodpeckers travel with other birds, but crows?

Its time to do something. I notice a soccer ball near the door. I think," What if I put it in the tree and ARCO climbs the tree. It might scare him or make it too unstable to enable him to stay in the tree".

If a soccer ball was good enough for Tom Hanks in Castaway it may be good enough for Woody and his family. The other woodpecker family doesn't worry me too much. It is high in the tree without a limb for ARCO to stand on. So the story of the woodpecker in tirelesstravelers front yard goes on...

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Comments 41 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very cool story told in very cool style. I liked it thanks

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Eric, Thanks for visiting. It was fun writing it until the cat showed up. He is named after the gas station, because t hey found at an ARCO station.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I saw a woodpecker a few weeks ago and was so happy since I really love them and it has been so long since I have seen any. I hope they are building nests near. I hope your tree will survive and the cat does not get them. I put bird netting around the bottom of a tree about 5 ft up to keep cats from climbing a tree of mine and it worked. I just let it billow out so it was hard for cats to get past it.

Good luck.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

JackI ie I have no idea where to get bird netting. ARCO can probably jump 6 feet. He jumps up our fence all the time. Great to see you tonight.

Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

What a very interesting hub. I hope you take Jackie's idea into consideration with the netting. There are other trees in other yards for the cat to play in, so I would not consider the netting to be interfering with nature, but an act of preserving a species of birds that need protection. Woodpeckers are not as common in residential areas as they used to be. It is a good idea to do what we can to protect them. Since your woodpecker families are making homes in the tree and not the house, more power to them. I love Downey woodpeckers. One year we put birdhouses up high in our trees for the Downey woodpeckers and they just drilled the entrance hole larger and made their homes in the houses, with no damage to the trees. It was a delight to watch them. You might consider birdhouses to protect the tree and also give the birds a safe place from the cat. Make sure there are little pegs on the houses for the birds to perch on. I really enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks.

SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

Nice and interesting hub. The woodpeckers certainly damage the trees, but it is their need. I think they do not like the birdhouses.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I'll bet it's fun watching the woodpecker families! I hope the cat doesn't get them!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I was howling when I read "Woodpeckers may be smarter than Arco"....what a great line that is.

travmaj profile image

travmaj 2 years ago from australia

Interesting hub, I admire your enthusiasm - I recall we once had an owl nest in our yard and watched with pleasure the family life and rearing of the babies. I hope the woodpeckers and family survive Arco and you find a method of protection. The net idea sounds great. A great read thanks...

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Phyllis- The bird houses sound like a good idea. Thanks for visiting .

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

traymaj- We had an owl in the backyard tree a long time ago. We live next to a school and the science teachers would collect the pellets to dissect. Nature is truly fascinating.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Bill, ARCO may be stealthy, but smart he is not. Delighted you got the humor. Happy Sunday to you.

The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

That was really something to read. I rooted for the woodpeckers and Downy's are my favorite ones. Cats usually just kill the birds and leave them somewhere else. Did you know that woodpeckers also search trees for insects? That is another type of hole they make in them. I voted it up and pinned it.

If you feed your birds and you put out suet then you will attract woodpeckers.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is an interesting story. I hope you find a solution that keeps everybody safe and happy - especially the woodpeckers!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I enjoyed your story as well as your passion for the woodpeckers. We have only a small plot of land but have converted the back yard into a haven for any wildlife that wants to visit. We have many woodpeckers visit, and although I don't think any have been nesting in our trees, there is ample evidence that they're around based on the lines of holes they've drilled. They really love suet like Kevin mentioned, as well as sunflower seeds/chips, and peanuts. Perhaps you might lure them to nest boxes or try planting some fast-growing evergreens? I'm sure with the drought you're already collecting rainwater and using leftover water from bathing and cooking for the tree.

old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi tirelesstraveler. Do you love them or loath them I wonder :-) You have written a top class hub here full of interest and info. A great profile as well, ride on with your travels.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Kevin, The birds come. I don't do anything. They don't need to be fed since there are usually lots of weed seeds around. Last fall I did let a couple of the sunflower s drop their seeds. What worries me most is them not getting enough water. They were so happy Sunday when I watered.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Wow, tirelesstraveler,

What a dilemma. Great write here in describing this precarious situation. That photo of that tree is an amazing thing to see with that huge hole there. When we first moved up here to the country, I would see a beautiful redheaded woodpecker about 10 feet away as I sat on my front porch, just pecking away. I could hear that pecking sound for a couple of years, but for several years now I have not seen him.

Maybe you could extend the bird netting up higher on the tree?

I hope you find a solution for all. Thank you for sharing.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Take an old (large) plastic storage dish you rarely use as a water bowl.

All of the birds will love it!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

We haven’t seen woodpeckers in quite some time. I think they are amazing little birds, although they can e a nuisance at times. Wonderful, enjoyable hub. Good luck with your tree, and I hope you find a good solution. :-)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I enjoyed the read. That must be real fascinating to have these birds and animals as a regular part of your life. Awesome!

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Kevin, It's done. The trick now is to keep it full. So hot and dry I can't keep the dogs in water hardly.

The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Do your dogs drink the water too?


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Dogs water in the house and the back yard

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

MsDora, delighted to see you. Fascinating is exactly what it is to have a family of woodpeckers visit.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

GeenaEast, hope you get to see some soon.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author


We don't usually have rain during the summer. I do have a rain barrel, its as dry as a bone.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

We do have some woodpeckers around and they are such hard workers. Interesting and a useful hub.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

They made it.

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Interesting hub ---I hear woodpeckers all the time--and think how cute they are--but they can cause serious damage!

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Hi Audrey, Indeed, these birds are fascinating and annoying.

Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

These woodpeckers are fascinating and they are intelligent birds who will escape from the cat. I hope you fond some peace in all this commotion! Great write.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Hi Vellur, Happily the birds are have flown the nest. I hear them at the park so they are still around. I kind of miss the bird song.

Torrs13 profile image

Torrs13 2 years ago from California

My grandparents get a lot of woodpeckers at their home in the Midwest. Whenever I visit, I like to sit at the kitchen table and watch them peck away at the trees just outside. There are so many different kinds that stop by... it's quite a sight!

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Torrs13, Thank you for visiting. I would love to have a window to sit by and watch these fascinating birds.

Writer Fox profile image

Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

What a delightful account of your personal experience with your own family of woodpeckers! Enjoyed.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Writer Fox- In deed having my own feathery family was run. Now they are mostly gone. Yesterday I did hear one of them in the tree. I suspect one of their holes is a food storage hole.

Have a good day.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

oh gosh, the mother woodpecker must have panicked when you blocked the hole. Voted interesting

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California Author

Peachpurple, I felt terrible. Last year we had a three groups of hatchlings, so it must not have been too bad. I think we have babies now. Wood peckers lay eggs at random times.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 18 months ago from Stillwater, OK

I definitely enjoyed this, as I would. Crows like eggs, any kind at all, so that could be what he or she was doing around the woodpecker cavity. Glad to hear that both woodpecker families are doing well. I have downs here, but have yet to met an Acorn Woodpecker.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 18 months ago from California Author

Hey Deb,

The woodpeckers have come back again. They are so funny. I didn't know they nested several times a year. There seems to be birds in the tree all the time. It is quite noisy with the two nests on the eves at the front door. I enjoy the whole process.

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