Hi, I have a very old and very large green ash tree that has been recently...

Asked January 23, 2015, 3:43 PM EST

Hi, I have a very old and very large green ash tree that has been recently visited by a Great Eastern Woodpecker I believe. I just noticed today that there are a number of very large holes all mostly in a straight line in it. This is pretty recent as I only saw the bird about one week ago. I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to deter the woodpecker from the tree and if I can help stop any disease occurring as a result of the large holes. Is there a fungicide of some type that I can paint over the holes to protect it from further damage? Is it even possible to save this beautiful tree? Thank you! Barbara

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

We were not able to find information on a 'Great Eastern Woodpecker', however there is a very large woodpecker in your area with a red topknot known as a pileated woodpecker (see online images) and, judging by the large holes, this may be your woodpecker. On the other hand, holes up to about an 1" in a row are the calling card of one particular woodpecker--the sapsucker. This fellow is rarely actually seen pecking the holes. It is medium sized, black and white, and the male has a bit of red. (Look at it on a search engine's images for a positive ID.) These holes do not generally harm a tree. Sometimes there are dozens on a tree.
You do not need or want to apply any kind of wound dressing or other product to the holes. (Wound dressing has been found to actually slow the healing process.)

Woodpeckers are usually pecking to remove and eat insects and larvae from a tree, which is good.This is a natural way for your tree to be protected from pests. Sometimes the birds make a large hole to nest in a tree, but even that doesn't kill the tree. Usually large holes are seen in dead trees as birds look for insects.

The biggest concern of ash trees in your area is the emerald ash borer, a non-native invasive insect pest. If you are determined to save this tree, go to the information on emerald ash borer on our website.