Ask a Consulting Arborist Q&A: Bark and Trunk Concerns

Q: What can I do to protect my tree from a woodpecker and help with the wounds?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016  

Q: In the past week, a redheaded woodpecker has attacked and stripped the bark from my Bradford pear tree, which is about 4” in diameter.  Bark is missing on a section about 12" long on the trunk near the lowest branch. Is there something I can put on the tree to prevent more damage and more attacks by the woodpecker?

A: From your description of the damage, it does not sound like yellow-bellied sapsucker (a type of woodpecker) damage (see example photo). In fact, if bark is missing rather than punched full of holes, it may be squirrel or other damage. If it is a woodpecker, you could try affixing hanging mirrors, old CDs, mylar strips, or other reflective objects to the tree to frighten it/them away. DO REMEMBER that migratory birds are protected by federal law, so do not do anything to harm them.

If the woodpeckers are hunting insects under the bark, you may require a professional treatment of insecticide to check off a reason for the bird to be there in the first place.
As for mitigation of damage to the bark, arborists no longer recommend coatings or coverings, which may trap disease under the bark. If you can't scare the bird(s) away, try wrapping some wire mesh loosely around the tree in the area of damage as a deterrent to landing there. You will find more help online if you Google "woodpecker damage to trees." Good luck.

 

Responder: David Jahn, RCA #425, Des Moines, IA