The Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker drill the holes in the Saguaro cactus. These birds are protected by law. Woodpeckers have been nesting in Saguaros for centuries for nest sites. Normally their excavations do not cause any problems and the plant heals itself very quickly. The black pieces scattered at the base of the saguaro are the tissue excavated by the birds. The saguaro begins to heal immediately and the wound is soon sealed. The scar tissue seals within hours and protects the exposed tissue. The black pieces will stain rock, sidewalks, stucco, and clothes. Rinse off with water as soon as possible. You can rinse off the Saguaro but do not soak or fill the hole with water.
I am often asked if you can patch or fill the hole. Very simply…NO! YOU will cause moisture to be trapped. If moisture is trapped in a wound it could cause rot. That would result in you doing more harm to the Saguaro than the woodpecker could ever do.
Gila woodpeckers drill the smaller holes usually not penetrating the rib cage of the saguaro. These are normally on the main stem. Gilded flickers are a larger bird and their holes are often in branches where they drill right into the rib cages. Both sets of holes are primary nesting sites for many other species of desert birds including elf owls, purple martins, flycatchers, and many others.
Another frequent question is “How do I get rid of woodpeckers?”
Basically, you don’t get rid of them. They are programmed by nature to keep building new homes and work at it seven days a week. Should you happen to get rid of one, another moves into the vacuum you have created. Learn to live with them or prepare for your mental breakdown.