7 NOVEMBER 1947, Page 14

Woodpeckers on Telegraph Poles It seems that some species of

bird have local prejudices and practices. For example: it is chiefly in the neighbourhood of Hertford that wood- peckers have adopted the habit of boring holes in the wood poles of overhead electric wires, and over this area, extending from Hitchin to Bishop's Stortford, the damage has been very considerable. A full account of great interest to students of birds, as well as to electric companies, is given by Mr. P. K. Davis in a technical pamphlet, Distribution of Electricity, issued by Henley's Telegraph Works Company. Now these poles are deeply soaked, in creosote, and this alone negatives the theory that the woodpeckers are seeking insects or, as some have suggested, the grubs of the sirex. Besides, woodpeckers do not drive deep holes for any other purpose than to nest. It seems to be established that the older poles are almost always selected, though the birds will return again and again to the same place even where a fresh pole (often also an old one) has been substituted for the damaged pole. There is, as it seems to me, good reason to suppose that the boring instinct, for which the bird is especially adapted (in head, beak, claw and even tail), is so strong that it demands expression over and above the provision of a nesting hole. A good clean trunk stirs it to action. The idea that the brazing of the wires suggests an insect is surely absurd. After all, grubs don't buzz. No good preventive has yet been found. Can creosote be made offensive to the senses of the bird? The green woodpecker is, of course, the chief, but not the only, offender.