Dead trees are ‘home sweet home’ to woodpeckers

Pileated Woodpecker

Trees come and go. When one dies, the property owner’s first inclination is to cut it down —all the way down to the ground.But chances are a woodpecker in your neighborhood is looking for a dead tree to create a nest to raise its young.

Woodpeckers prefer a near-dead or already dead tree because the excavating is easier than on live trees. They and many other bird species rely on dead trees for nesting, storing food, roosting and resting. For a nest, the woodpecker creates an upside down L-shaped chamber with entrance

Sometimes a dead tree near a house might cause a problem or trigger worries about toppling over. Consider removing just part of the tree—for example, lop off the top portion to reduce wind resistance. If all of part a tree has to be cut, place the dead portion at another location where wildlife can take advantage of it.  Once the woodpecker has raised its young and left the cavity, songbirds will be more than happy to move in. So leaving dead trees on your property is helpful to all types of birds.

By the way, how can woodpeckers pound away at trees and other hard surfaces without getting a concussion? Their thickened skulls and powerful neck muscles allow them to deliver sharp blows without damaging their organs. Also their bills are sharp as a chisel.  Just show them a dead tree and they’ll take care of the rest.

For more information on woodpeckers see Steven Shunks 2016 Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America (Peterson Reference Guides)

By Jorjana Price