Q: We have a problem woodpecker: It made some holes in our cedar siding last fall, and every time we’d patch one he’d move to a new spot. It’s out there pecking right now. Is there any way to make him stop?

A: Woodpeckers have an affinity for wooden buildings, especially at this time of year. Sorry to learn you’re having such problems, but people with cedar-sided homes often encounter problems with these industrious birds. Your woodpecker either is searching for insects hidden in the channels in the siding, or seeking to make a cavity for roosting or nesting. The best information I’ve come across on deterring woodpeckers is found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site: www.birds.cornell.edu/wp_about. Another good source is the Minnesota DNR: http://bit.ly/ZdFxVy. The DNR has a downloadable file on this whole topic at: http://bit.ly/12C7ut7. This site points out that no single method works in every case, so advises trying a variety of possible solutions. In addition, if you’re not already doing so, you might want to offer foods woodpeckers enjoy, such as peanuts and suet cakes, at feeders some distance from the house. If the woodpecker is drilling into your house in search of food, this might help divert its attention.


Ailing house finches

Q: We’ve had two male house finches that had an eye infection, but now the inflammation seems to have subsided. However, their eyes seem dull, they seem to have a vision deficit and their flight seems hesitant. We keep the feeders and birdbath very clean and wonder if the finches will recover.

A: I asked Dr. Leslie Reed, a veterinarian at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, about your finches. She advises that some finches will recover from avian conjunctivitis on their own, but they remain carriers and can infect other birds. Her advice is to capture the finches and bring them to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville (www.wrcmn.org). There they’ll be treated with antibiotics so they’re no longer infectious.

Suet holders

Q: I buy large chunks of suet at the meat market, but it’s a chore to thaw it out enough so I can cut off a chunk to fit the suet feeder each time. I don’t want to use a mesh bag for larger pieces, because I’ve heard birds can become caught in that. Any suggestions?

A: Good for you for thinking about the best way to offer suet. You’re right, birds can become tangled in mesh bags holding suet, so it’s best to avoid this method. I’ve seen large suet holders for sale at wild bird supply stores and garden centers and these would hold a larger section of fresh suet. One advantage to your present system is that the smaller pieces of suet will be consumed before they have time to spoil.

Birdbath barrier

Q: I have a heated birdbath and I know it’s advised to cover most of the water when it’s really cold outside. But what is “really cold?”

A: Good question, and you’re right, birds should be prevented from bathing in heated birdbaths when temperatures drop below 10 degrees F. (some even say 20 degrees F.). Birds bathe to maintain their feathers, but when it’s very cold a bath could lead to death by freezing. Keep a wooden plank or other kind of barrier nearby to cover most of the bath on the coldest days, so birds may drink but not bathe.

Migration timing

Q: When does spring migration begin?

A: Migrants are already showing up in the state, with some of the earliest birds, horned larks, reported in late January in rural areas. Waterfowl begin to show up on open water in March. If you’re interested in songbirds, bluebirds typically start arriving in late March, warblers and thrushes in early April and large numbers of orioles, catbirds and indigo buntings in early May. Hummingbirds are due in late April.


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St. Paul resident Val Cunningham, who leads bird hikes for the St. Paul Audubon Society and writes about nature for local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, can be reached at valwrites@comcast.net.