British Columbia

Protected woodpeckers cause thousands of dollars in damage to Prince George hotel

Construction crews will have to repair damage caused by two northern flicker woodpeckers that are protected under federal and provincial laws

The unwelcome visitors have pecked visible holes into the stucco of the new Prince George Marriott Hotel

A northern flicker woodpecker perches on the roof of the Prince George Courtyard Marriott Hotel. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Six storeys up, the rhythmic pecking of a northern flicker woodpecker joins the chorus of construction workers finishing work on the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Prince George. 

The new hotel is scheduled to open in May, but construction workers now have the added task of fixing the damage done by two woodpeckers that have been returning daily for almost a week. 

Construction workers say two northern flicker woodpeckers have been returning to the hotel for nearly a week, pecking holes into freshly installed stucco siding. 0:12

Foreman John Nafziger said at first there was only one woodpecker, but after it was temporarily scared away by a crow, it returned with a second woodpecker to continue its work. 

"We were coming out hauling tools in from the truck and I noticed he had a friend with him this morning — two endangered birds wrecking the building. And it's probably about $5,000 or $10,000 worth of damage."

The northern flicker woodpecker is not endangered, but it is protected under two wildlife protection laws: the B.C. Wildlife Act and the federal Migratory Birds Act. 

Holes made six storeys up by two woodpeckers are visible from a block away at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Prince George, which is scheduled to be open May 2018. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Prince George area conservation officer James Brady said that means the birds can only be deterred from using the site if they have not already built a nest.

A good spot for a nest

Brady said the hotel is in an ideal spot for nest-building. The new hotel is right next to Connaught Hill Park and about one kilometre away from the Fraser River. 

He said they also like the softness of the stucco. "What they end up doing at times is they poke through the stucco and see if they can create a hole to make a nest." 

Conservation Officer James Brady says it appears the woodpeckers have not had success building nests in the walls of the Courtyard Marriott. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

After seeing pictures of the holes made by the woodpeckers, Brady said it doesn't look like the birds have built a nest, which means deterrents like fake owls, raptor calls and protective material for the stucco may still be options to discourage the birds from pecking the building.

Once nests are made though, the woodpeckers are entitled to stay under wildlife protection laws until the chicks can leave the nest.

Superintendent predicts thousands of dollars in repairs

UPA Construction Superintendent Frank Stejskal says he'll have to rent a lift to reach the damage, almost 25 metres up. He said it's likely to cost as much as $4,000 a week plus the cost of labour to replace the stucco panels. 

Stejskal said the cost seems to be going up as the woodpeckers break new ground.

"This morning they moved about 70 feet away from the holes they had and they start pecking, you know, doing the new holes."

Stejskal said he still doesn't know what he's going to do to rid the Marriott of woodpeckers. He's hoping the birds will decide the stucco walls are not the ideal place to raise chicks.

To hear the full story, click on the audio titled 'Two woodpeckers are causing thousands of dollars in damage to new Prince George hotel, and no one can stop them'


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About the Author

Audrey McKinnon works as a reporter, associate producer and arts contributor for CBC Daybreak North in Prince George, B.C.