Woodpeckers hoard over 700 pounds of acorns in Glen Ellen vacation rental
Owners of a Glen Ellen vacation rental recently discovered that acorn woodpeckers are true hoarders.
When exterminator Nick Castro inspected the home for mealworms in December, he cut a hole in a bedroom wall and something unexpected came gushing out. Over 700 pounds of acorns had been stacked 20 to 25 feet high in the home’s chimney, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Castro, owner of Nick’s Extreme Pest Control in Santa Rosa. “The more acorns I pulled out from the wall, the more there were. It felt like it wasn’t going to end.”
The culprit was a pair of acorn woodpeckers, big-eyed birds with clownish faces and red caps often known to squirrel away large amounts of acorns. They had pecked holes in the two-story home’s chimney stack and hidden their cache inside, Castro said.
Previous owners had wrapped the house in vinyl after its wood siding was destroyed when the woodpeckers stashed acorns behind the trim, Castro said. But the vinyl proved too tough for the woodpeckers and, instead, they dropped their oak nuts down the chimney stack.
All told, Castro’s crew walked away with eight garbage bags full of the birds’ sacred hoard.
“We could barely pick up the bags,” Castro said with a laugh.
Castro estimated the woodpeckers had been adding to the stockpile for at least two to five years. But the trove had been covered by fiber glass and rat droppings so they were discarded, he said.
Acorn woodpeckers, found in oak and mixed oak-evergreen forests on the West Coast and in the Southwest, typically drill small holes in a dead tree, harvest the nuts in the fall and store them in the holes to eat during winter. Some trees are used for generations and have up to 50,000 holes.
In some cases, however, these birds may hide their accumulations in natural holes and cracks in bark. Other times, as Castro found, they pick unusual spots for storage.
The birds’ atypical hiding place could be them adapting to an ever-changing landscape, according to Scott Jennings, an avian ecologist with Marin County nonprofit environmental advocacy group Audubon Canyon Ranch. When infrastructure is built on their natural habitats, he said, they’ll adapt to those changes.
“It’s an anecdote I’ve heard a lot,” Jennings said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at email@example.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.