Woodpeckers causing thousands of dollars in damage at North Okanagan theatre - InfoNews

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Woodpeckers causing thousands of dollars in damage at North Okanagan theatre

FILE PHOTO: Northern flicker
Image Credit: National Audubon Society/ Alan Gubanich/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant
February 28, 2018 - 11:46 AM

VERNON - Damage at a North Okanagan theatre is leaving the building riddled with holes, and the culprits aren’t your typical vandals.

Northern flickers, a type of woodpecker, are pecking holes in the walls of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre — an ongoing nuisance that’s racking up quite a bill.

“What they do is peck their way through the hard exterior shell of the building and get into the insulation behind the stucco and nest in it,” community services manager Tannis Nelson says. “Around this time of year they start showing up more fervently.”

The birds have been a problem at the facility for years, and about five years ago the North Okanagan Regional District hired a contractor to install metal netting on the areas of concern. That stopped the birds, but now they are back attacking a different side of the building.

“We had a couple years of reprieve and now they are back infiltrating the building again,” Nelson says. “You can hear them from inside depending on where you are in the theatre, which is fine if there’s a percussion (performance) but maybe not something else.”

Marie Fleming Hall at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Marie Fleming Hall at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Image Credit: Contributed/ RDNO

Over the years the district has tried lower cost options such as a paint solution and the application of a special scent the birds supposedly dislike. Now, the district is looking for a more permanent fix — like the netting — and approved $150,000 in this year’s budget to solve the unsightly problem.

Pending a request for proposals, the district could likely go with the metal netting used successfully on a portion of the building several years ago, Nelson says. That was installed by a Kelowna company called EIFS Armour, which has found a niche helping businesses and homeowners with damage caused by northern flickers. Owner Keith Eisenkrein says he got his first call related to the birds in 2012 — since then he’s worked on more than 250 affected buildings.

“Some buildings have hundreds of holes,” Eisenkrein says. “It’s unbelievable how bad it’s gotten in the past eight years.”

The weakness, he says, is in a commonly used construction product — the Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS).

“The birds can go through it like butter,” Eisenkrein says.

Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Image Credit: Contributed/ RDNO

His product, EIFS Armour, uses a mesh system combined with concrete to make walls impenetrable. The product encases buildings like the West Kelowna RCMP detachment, the Centuria building in Kelowna and local wineries.

Eisenkrein says he has since improved his original product to prevent the birds from being interested in the buildings in the first place.

“For us, the success was actually changing the acoustics so it doesn’t sound like a hollow tree anymore,” he says.

In his experience, the birds are only becoming more of a problem in the Okanagan, and he thinks it’s due to a trend of warmer weather making them less likely to migrate. As for why they peck the holes in the first place, he’s pretty sure he has that figured out too.

“I've been watching them, researching them for almost seven years because I like to know what I’m up against,” he says. “A lot of people think they’re nesting which isn’t the case. The norther flicker makes the holes because he likes to attract other birds like starlings and finches, which go in and lay eggs there and then the flicker comes back. They use the holes as a hunting method. Me and a biologist came to that conclusion.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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