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Plucky woodpecker taking shots at Duncan's landmark hockey stick

Determined northern flicker is pecking holes in landmark hockey stick

A northern flicker is facing off against local authorities trying to protect the World’s Largest Hockey Stick from the bird’s determined pecking.

The bird — a type of woodpecker protected under the B.C. Wildlife Act and the federal Migratory Birds Act — used its strong beak to drill a hole in the giant hockey stick, a landmark at the Cowichan Community Centre.

Lori Iannidinardo, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said Monday the plan was to get a bucket truck in order to assess the situation. “Because of where it is, it is hard to see what is going on.”

On April 7, Duncan resident Lorraine Francisty noticed two similar birds on the 62.5-metre-long hockey stick, which weighs 28.12 tonnes and holds a ­Guinness world record for its size. The shaft and blade are made of steel-­reinforced Douglas fir beams, according to the Guinness website.

Commissioned for Expo 86 in Vancouver, the stick was relocated to the community centre in 1988.

Francisty said she saw what looked like bark mulch on the ground below the stick, which had a hole in it.

The bird or birds were pulling material out of the stick, she said, speculating there could be rot inside.

District staff put steel wool in the hole to discourage the bird, but by Wednesday, it had all been pulled out. “The woodpecker was back. It wasn’t giving up,” Francisty said.

By then, there was just one bird visible at the hole.

The district set about installing a flat metal plate over the hole. “And then all of a sudden, the bird flew out, like it was right inside.”

The plate did not deter the bird. “It came back and then it was trying to peck above that plate,” Francisty said.

Thomas Dudley, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Victoria, figures the bird is likely hunting for food.

He suggests installing something shiny, reflective, or moving — a compact disk for example — because birds don’t like to be distracted.

As for speculation it might be preparing a nest, Dudley said that’s probably not the case. Northern flickers “have pretty big houses for a bird. They are much ­bigger than what they are pecking at.”

Northern flickers have caused property damage in B.C. Sometimes they will choose a house, other times something larger.

In 2018, a pair of northern flickers drilled about half a dozen holes in the side of the Prince George Marriott Courtyard’s exterior, in what the local conservation officer figured was nest-building. The site was near parks and natural food sources.

Workers finishing up the hotel made noise to make the site unwelcoming for the birds.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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