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Anti-woodpecker filler solves headache for utility company

The British population of Great Spotted Woodpeckers has more than doubled in 20 years, presenting an unusual problem for utility companies.

From Press releases - 24 August 2017 12:00 AM

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Woodpeckers often mistake wooden electricity pole for trees, they are pecking holes for nests and in doing so damaging the structural integrity of the wood poles and chipping away at the electricity network. Poles that are damaged must be repaired or replaced.

Now electricity distribution company UK Power Networks is trialling a new wood filler that contains a woodpecker-repellent fragrance to persuade our feathered friends not to drill their way through electricity poles.

Woodpeckers tend to return to places where they have already pecked holes to hunt for food such as insects and worms, and so filling the holes is a safe and environmentally-friendly way of encouraging them to look elsewhere.

The filler has been proven to extend the lifespan of electricity poles, helping to keep customers’ bills low and preventing power cuts for residents.

According to the British Trust for Ornithology, the British population of Great Spotted Woodpeckers has risen by 136% in the last 20 years, while the population of Green Woodpeckers has also risen 31% .

In the last year alone, UK Power Networks has seen approximately 6,000 wooden electricity poles across Kent and East Anglia damaged by woodpeckers, which is almost 10% of its total stock. The woodpecker filler has already been used extensively close to Brighton preventing the need to replace wood poles.

Developed in the United States, the wood pecker filler prevents the woodpecker from causing further damage to the poles. Woodpeckers are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, so engineers are instructed never to disturb a nest if eggs or young are present.

Ian Cameron, Head of Innovation at UK Power Networks said: “We’ve noticed an increase in the number of our poles that had to be replaced because of woodpecker damage resulting in loss of power for our customers, so we researched how we could do something about it before it becomes a big problem.

“We trialled a new product developed in the United States that fills the holes and emits a harmless scent to persuade woodpeckers to pick a more suitable home. We think it’s a perfect way of ensuring that we’re keeping our customers’ lights on while respecting the wildlife population.

Last year it was reported that a number of customers in Scotland would be without power for several hours at a time to allow engineers to replace electricity poles that were damaged by a thriving family of woodpeckers. 

UK Power Networks takes its responsibilities to local wildlife very seriously and has actively supported the nine Wildlife Trusts in its network area since 2011, both financially and through providing a volunteer workforce.