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Woodpecker Watch

Whether you are hunting down the recently spotted Snowy Owl or checking off species on your life list, you could be protecting those very trees the birds of Vermont rely on. The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive forest pest that devours all three species of Vermont ash trees but you can help find early infestations of EAB by reporting woodpecker damage observed on ash trees. Click here for a printable ash tree identifcation reference sheet.

EAB larvae live just under the bark, where they feed for a year or two on the juicy, live tissue of the ash tree. Woodpeckers have been found to be the number one predator of the EAB in the U.S.; 90-95% of EAB mortality is caused by woodpeckers. Although there aren’t enough woodpeckers to make any significant dent in the EAB population, the bark flaking and peck holes left on ash bark are great indicators that an ash tree is infested and warrants a closer look by professionals. Keep in mind that if EAB is present, you will likely notice many ash trees with woodpecker damage, not just one tree. Emerald Ash Borer: What do birds have to do with it? is a great article that recently appeared in Audubon Vermont's Friends of Forest Birds Newsletter:

What to look for:

1. Sporadic blonding of bark where woodpeckers have flaked off bits of bark probing for their next larval meal and sprouting from trunk where insects are feeding: 


2. Woodpecker holes that were pecked out in search of insect larvae tunneling below the bark's surface and D-shaped exit holes:


3. Cracks in bark and S-shaped galleries made by the larvae feeding on the live tissue beneath the bark:


4. Crown dieback or sparse looking tree tops:

Photo Credit: Emilie Inoue



You can contribute by taking a few minutes and reporting your woodpecker sightings here:

Please fill the report form out as thoroughly as you can (especially location/GPS coord) and upload three photos (if possible although even one would be helpful) of the damaged tree(s).

Photo one: a close-up of the damage: holes or flakes (or other signs if present).

Photo two: zoomed out to include a good portion of the damage and bark (to ensure ash tree identification).

Photo three: a photo of the crown or top of the ash tree (this could provide evidence of die back and flagging associated with EAB attack).



Thank you for your help in protecting Vermont’s woodland and urban trees; we appreciate the help!

For more information on EAB and other invasive pests please visit:


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