British Columbia

'Impenetrable' coating to protect B.C. theatre from woodpeckers' pointy beaks

Protected northern flickers have caused 10s of thousands of dollars worth of damage to Vernon performing arts centre

Northern flickers have caused 10s of thousands dollars worth of damage to Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Protected northern flickers have caused 10s of thousands dollars worth of damage to a Vernon performing arts centre. The birds have also been known to damage hotels, condominiums and private homes throughout the province. (Audrey McKinnon/CBC)

Every year, northern flickers attack the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

And every year, North Okanagan Regional District tries a new way to ward off the woodpeckers, which are protected by environmental law.

So far, plastic owls, recordings of predatory birds and a scent additive have failed to keep the flickers away, and the district is left with hundreds of holes in their building as the birds search for insects to eat and a place to nest.

Now the local government is turning to a spray-on coating that comes with a lifetime guarantee to defend against the avian enemies of the arts.

Damage from northern flicker woodpeckers to the Marie Fleming Hall at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre and the culprit, at right. (Tannis Nelson/Caroline Csak)

OKC Coatings has promised to apply a spray-on coating that is "impenetrable" to the birds" beaks, a guarantee community services manager Tannis Nelson said was music to her ears.

"We kept the proposal really open," she told CBC Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "This company was able to provide a lifetime warranty against bird damage and nesting and a 10- year warranty against normal wear and tear."

The district budgeted $150,000 for repairs in 2018 and has spent thousands more dating back to 2014, Nelson said.

She said the building's location next to a creek is one reason the birds keep coming.

"Obviously, that's perfect, prime riparian habitat, and this provided a great spot for these birds."

A feathered financial liability

Vernon isn't the only city to come up against the northern flicker.

Though not endangered, the bird is protected under the B.C. Wildlife Act and the federal Migratory Birds Act, which means they can only be deterred from using a site if they have not already built a nest.

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

In 2018, construction of a new hotel in Prince George received roughly $10,000 worth of damage after a pair of flickers starting pecking at the stucco, and in 2016, a Kelowna condominium owner spent $260,000 to repair more than 300 holes and add metal siding to help deter future flocks.

Homeowners also come up against the birds searching for food in the side of their homes, particularly in early spring.

Nelson said the coating should be applied by the end of August, in time for the 2019/2020 performance season.

Northern Flickers have caused tens of thousands dollars worth of damage to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. 4:52

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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.

Interview with Tannis Nelson produced by Christine Coulter for CBC Daybreak South

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