The Northern Flicker Woodpecker Rescue of May 27, 2015

I spent the nineteenth anniversary of my sister’s suicide doing nothing special, ignoring the laundry and devouring my book club book The Round House.  So it was quiet time—until that afternoon when my Ma called and said a tree fell in their yard bring the kids over to see.

It was a big old secretly hollow hickory tree, and It was like a condominium for wildlife.

Opossum hole

Opossum Nest with Plastic Shopping Bag. This is where your trash ends up.

By the time we got there, the baby squirrels and opossums had escaped with their mommas, but the baby woodpeckers were still there.

Baby woodpeckers on ground

Three baby woodpeckers were on the ground:  two were squawking and buzzing in alarm when anyone got close, one was quiet and dead, and two were in the tree, screeching for help from the huge split, trapped.  The hole to their hollow was pressed against the ground.

I googled woodpecker rescue.  After finding the number for the Wildlife Rescue League, I called and listened to detailed instructions, then left a message.  Dad gave me a shoebox from his size 13 wide hiking boots, I handed the phone to Peony, then I went over and quickly picked up a squawking woodpecker.

It was big for a baby—I used two hands so it wouldn’t flail away and because it wouldn’t fit in just one of my hands.  Its body felt sturdy and strong as I quickly but gently placed him, still fussing loudly, in the box.  I scooped up the other baby and added him to the box with his sibling.

They had the beginnings of black and white feathers and red fuzz on their heads.

The other two birds were still trapped.  Their hole had been about thirty feet up the tree and though the tree was hollow, it was heavy, too heavy to roll.

My dad came striding down the hill with a chainsaw.

“Let’s see how many heads I cut off,” he said grimly.  He carefully cut the tree into sections, checking each time that there were no other nests hidden (and no heads to cut off).

In the meantime, my phone rang.  It was someone from the Wildlife Rescue League!  He gave me a name and an address of a rehabilitator in Annandale.

I went back to the woods to check Dad’s progress.  “Here are your two other woodpeckers,” he said, gesturing to the ground, where they struggled and flapped and loudly complained.  I brought the box over to Dad, who picked up the two baby woodpeckers with one hand and plopped them in the box.

The screeching doubled.  To me, that indicated health!

We had all been plucking ticks off us the whole time; I swear we had stumbled into a tick hole (a reference to The Round House!), so I took the kids home for a tick check and a quick shower.

After husband got home, I whisked the noisy woodpeckers off to Nora in Annandale.

The birds are safe and in capable hands.

Three Flickers Crowding and One Having a Meal

On the drive home I saw a rainbow.

This rescue is something my sister would have done, I thought, remembering the baby squirrel that fell out of a black walnut tree at Gramaw’s house.  She named him Rocky and nursed him back to health.  He lived with us for a while, then he returned to the wild.

The Northern Flicker Woodpecker Rescue of May 27, 2015, coincidence? I think not.  Someone is saying hello.

Hangry woodpeckers being fed by Nora

The Wildlife Rescue League (for Northern Virginia)—(703) 440-0800

From their website:


Be certain the animal is injured or orphaned. Watch and wait before taking any action. With species such as deer and rabbits, the mother may be nearby. If it is a feathered young bird hopping on the ground, watch to make sure mother is around. If a bird has fallen out of a nest and you can get to the nest, pick up the bird carefully and put it in the nest (birds cannot smell you).

Never attempt to capture an adult sick or injured mammal. Call the wildlife hotline for advice.

Place the animal or bird in an appropriately-sized box with padding inside (multi-layers of paper towels, or a soft towel or washcloth without holes or strings) and air holes for ventilation. Keep the box in a warm, dark, quiet place until ready to transport to a rehabilitator. DO NOT give any food or water as the animal could drown, die from shock, or have problems with the wrong food.

If you are not certain what to do, call the wildlife hotline: (703) 440-0800. The Hotline serves Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. If you live outside these areas please see the Resources page for assistance.

Wildlife Rescue League Donations

The Wildlife Rescue League relies on donations in order to purchase supplies used to rescue and rehabilitate native wildlife.

Please consider WRL for your Combined Federal Campaign contribution. Our CFC # is 79123.

Donate to the Wildlife Rescue League through Network for Good, or send a check

to WRL, P.O. Box 704, Falls Church, VA 22040.



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