AT RANDOM: For the birds

I used to love the Woody Woodpecker Show as a kid. He was one of my favourite characters on Saturday morning cartoons...

I used to love the Woody Woodpecker Show as a kid. He was one of my favourite characters on Saturday morning cartoons, right up there with Bugs, Daffy and Wile E.

He would get up to all sorts of trouble, but would always end up turning the tables on the antagonist of the day, whether it was Gabby Gator, Wally Walrus or Buzz Buzzard.

These days, I’m the nemesis. I’m Wally Walrus.

The birds are out in full force in Armstrong-Spallumcheen, and among the species taking up residence at our acreage are woodpeckers. We also have some chubby robins bouncing around the yard, plus a male pheasant whose call makes it sound like he is being throttled. But it is the woodpeckers I have a problem with.

I had a gander on the North Okanagan Avibase (regional bird checklist), and the culprit appears to be a type of woodpecker called a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

For the past few weeks I have woken up to the constant tack-tack-tack sound on the outside of my house. I’d go storming out into the yard in my boxers (one of the many perks to country living is privacy) to find one of these creatures hammering away at the side of my house.

He had already punched a baseball-sized hole  in the wood under my eaves. I quickly patched it, but he then added another right next to it and has since moved onto our suite.

I’m assuming he is trying to make a nest to attract some female companionship, but I’d prefer he didn’t incorporate my house in building his love shack.

My options for removing this pesky vandal are many, but most of them aren’t all that appealing. I’m not exactly sure what the legality of shooting a woodpecker is, but it’s a moot point because I don’t own a gun (pellet or otherwise). Besides, my neighbour is a conservation officer and I’m pretty sure he would frown upon that practice.

There is a chemical product you can spray around the area the bird is pecking that is supposed to burn their feet, and thus deter them. Again, not something I’m overly keen on trying.

You can buy other products such as imitation owls and shiny reflective tape that are supposed to spook/annoy a woodpecker, but I’m wondering how long that would last. Every time I shoo them away, they come back five minutes later and resume their destruction of my house, one wood chip at a time.

I actually bought this psychedelic-looking spiralling piece of plastic from a dollar store, but it looks so tacky I have yet to hang it up.

So after mulling all these options over in my head for the last week, I came to one very simple realization – all this bird wants is a home. So I’m going to build him one.

All I can say is he better like it because if he doesn’t, in the words of comedian Russell Peters: “Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.”

This is one of those instances where the Internet is a godsend. All I had to do was Google ‘woodpecker nesting box’ and presto, potential design ideas flowed.

Apparently, woodpecker nesting box design hasn’t changed all that much in the last century. The one I settled on came from the 1916 classic Bird Houses Boys Can Build, by Albert F. Siepert.

I really hope it works because, while I loathe being woken up by woodpeckers (or any other bright and cheery animal), I take their presence to be a good omen.

It was my choice to move to the country, and now I have to try and make nice with the locals.

—Graeme Corbett is a reporter for The Morning Star