California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Recycled Power Poles - Acorn Woodpecker Nest Cavity and Granary

Aging wood power poles are being replaced all over Southern California. Our wood telephone pole at the end of my driveway has served our property since the original subdivision of the tract in the early 1950's. The Acorn Woodpeckers have had a cavity nest near the top of the pole for the more than 30 years I have lived there. Acorn woodpeckers work together as a colony to raise babies from eggs to fledging. Our colony has 8 birds. It takes a lot of work to pound out a cavity that a person can put an arm in past the elbow. Our pole was slated for replacement early this past Fall. Biologists came and watched the nest for several hours and determined the nest was still active. The biologists came back as Winter arrived and even though nest activity usually ends in October our nest cavity was deemed still active and the pole replacement was delayed again. Late in January a final check took place and the pole replacement proceeded. I came home after working in the gardens on my route and saw the top 10 feet of the pole on the ground. There was an extravagent gallery in the very topmost portion. I asked the crew if I might keep that part of the pole. They said they could get in trouble with their inspectors for leaving debris behind. I assured them that it would not be for long. I was so pleased when they relented.

The pole section was heavy, I think over 200 pounds. With difficulty I was able to lever it onto my nursery cart one end at a time. Once rolling it was possible to move the pole without destroying myself or the pole. I found a site where I could orient the pole the same direction to the sun as the woodpecker chose. I dug a 3 foot deep hole and placed the pole in. Leveled it up and backfilled. Then I waited . . . on the third day of waiting and watching I was rewarded by the sight below. The Woodpeckers had found thier nest again. First there were to, then three woodpeckers, after each entered the nest they came out with so much to say. Then the next woodpecker would enter and the chortles and happy woodpecker noises would repeat. They checked every acorn to make sure it was properly tapped into place up and down the tree, then went off to find thier friends.

Acorn Woodpeckers, and woodpeckers in general are a keystone species in any environment they might live. There are a lot of other cavity nesting birds and this is by no means a complete list, from owls, to bluebirds, to nuthatches and several species of swallows and ducks. Many of these species can not make their own cavities and rely on the woodpeckers or generous birdhouse makers to provide accomodations. People often deem dead trees with their cavities a hazard and the trees are removed. Cavity nesting birds have been under stress due to a housing shortage for years. While the repacement of the power poles and upgrade of our electrical infrastructure is important because of fire and so much else, having a thought to lost habitat due to this process is hugely important. If you have ever watched a nest for even just a short time you will realize how much food chicks need. The insects that provide this bounty are mostly pests. Acorn woodpeckers often cycle into the nest every few minutes carrying several insects on the return from each hunt. What this means for the health of your garden and your neighbors gardens is beyond imagination for most of us.

Recycled Power Pole with Acorn Woodpecker Cavity

Recycled power pole with Acorn Woodpecker Cavity Two acorn woodpeckers have just found thier recycled nest cavity. Find this in our garden image collection.