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Woodpeckers, reflections don’t mix

BRADENTON — The neighborhood where Bob and Mary Ann Cummins live on 50th Street East in Braden River Lakes is usually quiet.

Except the last several mornings.

“It sounds like a drill or a jackhammer and it’s really loud, very noisy,” Mary Ann Cummins said.

The culprits?

Pileated Woodpeckers, 18-inch tall critters with black bodies and red crests — aka “Woody Woodpecker” — banging away on automobile windows, rearview mirrors and even metal gutters.

“I couldn’t believe how hard they were hitting those mirrors. I could hear it inside my house,” said Mary Ely, the Cummins’ daughter and neighbor. “They were mad at those mirrors.”

Mad at mirrors? Yes.

Gary Morse explained why.

“It’s nesting time, they’ve set up territories and when they see their reflection in mirrors or tinted windows they’re attacking what they believe is another bird in their territory,” said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official. “The bird doesn’t realize it’s seeing itself. They can do some damage.”

Bob Cummins will vouch for that.

One Pileated Woodpecker broke the driver’s side rearview mirror on his leased yellow VW Beetle. It’s going to cost him over $100 to replace.

“When I talked to my insurance company,” Cummins said, “the woman thought she’d heard it all when it came to claims — until I told her about ‘Woody the Woodpecker.’”

Neighbors’ cars on either side of his daughter’s home also suffered mirror damage, reportedly.

Cummins printed up pictures of the Pileated Woodpecker and left them at neighbors’ homes with tips on how to avoid his car’s fate.

“So neighbors have put socks and plastic bags on their car mirrors,” Mary Ann Cummins said. “They can also turn the mirrors in toward the cars.”

Dan Forssell, who owns a Ford F-150 pickup, hasn’t done so. Yet.

“I came out the other morning and a woodpecker was on the passenger side window of my truck, pecking away. It was a sight to see,” he said.

“Luckily my window didn’t break.”

Morse said such behavior will last through nesting season.

And he had one other suggestion.

“Park your car in the garage,” he said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.