Sunday, December 5, 2010

Woodpecker Holes

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that trees hosting shelf fungi were attractive nest trees for woodpeckers. The white shelf fungi on this tree glowed in the sunlight like a beacon, causing me to change my course and come over to investigate. There between two growths of shelf fungi, I found a woodpecker hole.

The feeding of the fungi on the deadwood of the tree makes for easy digging. A bit lower on the trunk were these oval holes that were probably made by Pileated Woodpeckers. The holes were too high on the tree to determine if they were intended as nest holes or were the result of feeding activity. Pileated nest holes are typically more rounded than these, so I'm guessing this was just feeding activity.

The tree is fairly large and shows signs of woodpecker activity along the entire length of the trunk. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the tree down on the ground within the next couple of years. I guess then I’ll get a closer look at the holes and be able to tell what they were used for.

I’m sure a few of the holes higher on the trunk were entrances to nest cavities, but most of the activity was clearly pursuit of insects. Many areas had sections of bark removed and various small sized holes in close groups.

Some are older holes that show signs of new growth attempting to heal the wound. I don’t think this tree is going to be around long enough to do any real healing.

The heartwood shows signs of insect tunnels and galleries. Many animals utilize the holes in order to access the potential meals inside. I’ve seen mice, skinks, opossums and raccoons work use woodpecker holes for access and then work their way up through the center of a tree. It doesn’t take long for the tree to be hollowed and left to await its fall to the forest floor.


  1. I have a folder in my picture gallery that is nothing but woodpecker trees!!

  2. Hi Steve... I am always drawn to look at holes in a tree....and look for fresh chip on the ground and can't get over sometimes how big they are...fascinating what one little creature can do!!
    I have a hugh willow right in back of my house that does worry me...the tree is still alive but the holes are in some places back to back on each side ..some day I will have to find another place to hook the cloths line to! lol : } it's going to crash!!

  3. Hi, Karen. I'm impressed that you've taken so many pictures of woodpecker trees. I'm more impressed that you have your photos organized into subject files. All my photos are still stored by date taken.

    Hi, grammie g. I've also seen pretty small guys throw out some whopper sized chips.
    Hope your clothesline tree lasts a few seasons more. Maybe when it falls, you can tie your clothesline to one of the limbs.

    Thanks, Lois.

  4. The Pileated was here this morning, I've found two trees that he's been boring into very close to the house (so long as he doesn't start beating ON the house). Will make for some great photo ops if he keeps it up!

  5. Hi, Renee. I'm looking forward to your excellent Pileated photos.

  6. Thanks for the pictures. I was wondering if the pictures I took recently were woodpecker or something bigger... The holes are like your second picture, but from left to right diagonal. There are also slash marks on the bark... Kinda scary, but I'm hoping it is just from the woodpecker. There are more holes on the other side. It looks like they were just eating, but I don't know what the beginning of a nest looks like... Guess I will have to go back in a few days and see if there is more progress. *Keeping my fingers crossed* Again, thanks.

  7. I have the same issue. One day the tree was fine, now I'm worried that it is going to die. I love to watch the woodpeckers but never realized how much damage they can do in such a short time. Is there any fix? I don't want the trees to fall on my house. Also, I have some great big love oaks and I really don't want them to start looking like this. I have some good photos but I'm not sure how to download them here. Any advice on medicine for the trees?