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Do woodpeckers try to enlarge nesting box holes without any intention of using them?

Sent in by John Norman, Wheldrake, near York

Of all of our native woodpeckers, the great spotted woodpecker is the mostly likely to readily take to a nestbox. This, like the many cavities that they may excavate in trees, can either be used for nesting and or roosting in.

Not all excavations made in trees are actually ever used and some woodpeckers rather than excavate their own will readily use existing holes. In addition to excavating nestholes, woodpeckers will also chisel away at wood in order to get to wood-boring insects as well as drumming on trunks and branches to advertise their presence.

Woodpeckers normally start to breed around April time and great spotted woodpeckers, if they choose to use one, will frequent a nestbox with a 50mm aperture.

Nesting and roosting is not the only reason why a woodpecker may show interest in a nestbox. Unfortunately, great spotted woodpeckers, like squirrels and cats will on occasion investigate the nestboxes of small bird species with a view to taking the young. In order to avoid this, a metal plate can be fitted around the entrance hole of a nestbox and this will help prevent the woodpecker from chiseling away at the hole in order to get at the contents.

 

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