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Woodpecker drilling damages 6,000 electricity poles

Great spotted woodpecker Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption About 6,000 wooden poles have succumbed to woodpecker damage in the past year

Woodpeckers drilling holes in electricity poles have been blamed for damaging 6,000 posts in the past year.

The birds are mistaking poles in East Anglia and south-east England for trees, UK Power Networks said.

Woodpeckers often return to the same spot so the escalating damage can result in power cuts or the need to replace the posts.

The utility company is now using a wood filler containing a scent that repels the birds.

Woodpecker damage generally occurs 6ft above ground level and continues all the way to the top of the pole, Ipswich-based UK Power Networks said.

About 25% of the pole can be lost to the damage, but if the holes are not filled rot can set in leading to further problems.

Image copyright UK Power Networks
Image caption The birds will nest in the holes or return to them to search for food

"There is... some thought that the woodpeckers are attracted to certain poles because they vibrate at a frequency similar to where mites nest," the company said.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said in an attempt to deter the birds from coming back to their old holes to search for insects or worms, they had been trialling a "new product developed in the US that fills the holes and emits a harmless scent to persuade woodpeckers to pick a more suitable home".

The new resin, which is a blend of natural oils, was trialled successfully in the Brighton area for several years and is now being rolled out across the network, Mr Cameron added.

Image copyright UK Power Networks/PA
Image caption The wood filler is a safe way of encouraging the birds to go elsewhere, the company said

The company found the filler deterred the reoccurrence of damage on the same pole and was a safe and environmentally friendly way of encouraging the woodpeckers to go elsewhere.

Although woodpeckers are thriving in the UK, with their population increasing in the last 20 years according to the British Trust for Ornithology, the species is protected and the company's engineers are not allowed to disturb a nest if eggs or young are present.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: "If woodpeckers are damaging poles in certain areas, the proposed measures seem a sensible and cost-effective way to prevent further damage without harming this popular bird."

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