UK Power Networks uses wood filler to protect electricity poles from woodpecker damage
Rising numbers of great spotted woodpeckers have led a utility company to test out a new way to protect wooden electricity poles from the birds, who often confuse them for trees.
UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity in the south east and east of England, said in the last year alone it had seen some 6,000 wooden electricity poles across Kent and East Anglia damaged by woodpeckers drilling into the poles to make nests.
“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,” says, Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks.
The company is now trialling a new wood filler which contains a fragrance that repels woodpeckers to try to dissuade them from pecking at the poles, helping keep costs down for customers and preventing power cuts for residents.
“We think it's a perfect way of ensuring that we're keeping our customers’ lights on while respecting the wildlife population,” says Cameron.
Woodpeckers often return to places where they have already pecked holes to hunt for food such as insects and worms. So filling up the holes made in electricity poles with the filler is a safe and environmentally friendly way of encouraging them to look elsewhere.
The method has already been extensively used near Brighton to prevent the need to replace wooden poles.
Woodpeckers are protected by law, so engineers are instructed never to disturb a nest if eggs or young are present, UK Power Networks said.
Great spotted woodpeckers have seen their numbers rise 136 per cent in the last 20 years, while green woodpecker numbers are up by 31 per cent, figures from the British Trust for Ornithology show.