Woodpecker attacks Cleveland Avenue trees
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 15,2013
Michael Paul photo
A pileated woodpecker chips away at a tree along Cleveland Avenue in Rutland.
It may have sounded like someone with an ax was loose on Cleveland Avenue on Thursday, and it may have looked like some of the trees were materials in an abstract art project, but the truth was somewhat less colorful.
The long, deep hollows cut into two trees and piles of wood chips below them were the work of a woodpecker.
“It’s the biggest woodpecker I’ve ever seen,” resident Michael Paul said. “It’s been around for a while and it’s just been going nuts.”
Paul said the “thwack-thwack-thwack” of the woodpecker at work has been audible all over the neighborhood.
“It’s probably a pileated woodpecker,” said Marvin Elliott, co-president of the Rutland County Audubon Society. “That’s our biggest woodpecker. It’s actually quite common around — I wouldn’t expect to find it in the city, but that’s not far from Pine Hill Park. A bird that size could easily fly there.”
Elliott said that while woodpeckers usually avoid the more densely settled areas, torn-up trees like the ones that appeared on Cleveland Avenue can also be found in Pine Hill Park.
“They have discovered some insect in that tree,” Elliott said. “Though they do a lot of damage to the tree, the tree already has something in there the woodpecker is going after.”
Paul said he was worried the furrows would prevent proper sap flow, eventually killing the trees. Despite the damage, Elliott said the trees were likely to survive.
“What’s more likely to kill the tree is whatever the woodpecker is going after,” he said.
City Forester Dave Schneider was not available Thursday.
The cartoon character Woody Woodpecker’s call was not far from the real thing, though the “pecking” sounds more like hacking, Elliott said.
“It sounds like somebody’s chopping with an ax,” he said. “They have a big beak and they’re capable of getting right into the tree. They can hear the sound of the bug in the tree. They have a tongue they can go after the bug with — it’s quite long.”
The tongue is so long, Elliott said, that it has to retract into a hollow in the bird’s head that runs from its beak, up and over the top of the brain and into the back of the head.
He said their brains are also cushioned to protect them from damage while pecking.