Birds want City Hall as home sweet homeRiver Falls rolled out its first line of defense two weeks ago against pesky-and-persistent woodpeckers that want to make a home in the stucco-on-foam roof eaves of City Hall.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
River Falls rolled out its first line of defense two weeks ago against pesky-and-persistent woodpeckers that want to make a home in the stucco-on-foam roof eaves of City Hall.
Maintenance Supervisor Tom Schwalen confirmed Monday that one or two woodpeckers, believed to be the downy species, have been enamored with City Hall since barely a year after it was completed in 2009.
Schwalen said he’s repaired many of the holes the birds make, which are an inch or so on the outside but bigger inside.
They peck through the stucco then create a large cavity behind the entry hole.
“They’re creating nests from the foam underneath the stucco,” he explained.
Besides the problem spots, city staff members would see and hear them -- sometimes as people entered and exited the building and sometimes through the windows from inside offices.
Schwalen called one of the deterrents used, a flasher. A close look reveals flashers hanging from the corner eaves of City Hall’s roof. The instructions were to hang them on the soffit so they’re visible to the birds.
He said, “It’s a little piece of metal that has reflectors on both sides.”
Repairs also included sliding a sheet of metal over any would-be nests already there or started. Schwalen said he probably repaired six-eight damaged spots.
It was long apparent that woodpeckers were digging in, but not the species until Schwalen researched through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also looked into different ways to deter them, finding the flashers and metal pieces.
While he admits to seeing some humor in the situation, Schwalen says the cost is no joke.
The recent stint of repairs and deterrent installation took about three days. And in order to reach the areas needing work, the city rented a special lift for the second time in woodpecker-defense history.
River Falls has probably spent $2,000-$3,000 on woodpecker defense and damage control since 2010, said Schwalen, not including the expense of his time.
He said the city will watch to see if the deterrents work, and if they don’t, River Falls will expand its research and seek other approaches.
“They are protected, so we’re using caution,” said Schwalen about woodpeckers.
Both federal and state laws protect all wild birds, according to several online sources including the UW-Extension.
“People can receive significant fines for harming or killing one without first having obtained a written permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” says one site.
Other information about the birds seeking a home at City Hall: There are 180 species of woodpecker; most have exceptionally hard beaks; and, they’re usually solitary non-migratory birds about 6-18 inches in size, depending on the species.
Woodpeckers peck -- usually into bark -- because they’re seeking insects for food or trying to make a nest. They generally don’t call, except for the males in spring, so the birds make little noise except for the knocking sound when they peck.