GLEN ELLEN, Calif. - Exterminators in California were recently met with a nutty surprise during a call to a home in the wine country community of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County: more than 700 pounds of acorns in the walls stacked up about 20 feet from floor to attic.
On Facebook, Nick’s Extreme Pest Control, in Santa Rosa, shared photos of massive piles of acorns pouring out of the walls of a home.
"Came across this on a job," Nick’s wrote in the caption of the post on Jan. 25, adding, "Bird was a bit of a hoarder."
To be specific, it wasn't just any bird, the company credited the impressive collection as the work of woodpeckers, based on holes that were found on the exterior of the home, especially around the chimney stack. And to be even more specific, they were suspected to be the aptly named acorn woodpeckers.
Company owner Nick Castro told KTVU FOX 2 that back in December, his crew was called to the property because the homeowners reported seeing little maggot-like worms coming out of the wall.
"We all thought there was a dead animal," Castro said, explaining why his team cut into the wall.
Stockpile of acorns
Upon inspection, they found out it was actually mealworms that the owners had seen, which have been associated with acorns, and that the real issue was that the property had been doubling as a personal granary for a group of winged vandals.
"Clear woodpecker holes all over the house. Acorns stored all over siding and trim. Completely destroyed exterior of house with all the holes everywhere," Nick shared in a comment to the Facebook post.
Workers actually got a glimpse of the suspects at work while on the job site. Castro said several woodpeckers came by to continue their stockpiling work by creating more holes to the home's chimney area.
Acorn woodpeckers, which are found in California, are drawn to wooded areas. The birds live in small colonies and are famously known for being the ultimate hoarders.
On the website, All About Birds, experts noted that while the practice of stocking up on food for the winter was typical behavior among many types of birds, "no bird gets into hoarding on such a grand scale as the Acorn Woodpecker."
And it seemed the birds that decided to make use of that Glen Ellen home for storage purposes also got pretty creative in finding ways to stash their loot.
"The bird put acorns through chimney stack after making 100s of holes in wood siding surrounding it," the pest control company noted, adding that they also used attic ventilation portholes to carry out their hoarding efforts.
Castro and his team spent the whole day hauling out eight large garbage bags full of the woodpecker's stockpile. They also covered up the holes and closed up areas that the birds were using to fly into the home's attic.
And as for the recovered loot? The acorns were not salvageable because they were mixed in with insulation fiberglass and rat droppings, according to the company owner.
Castro, who has been in the pest control business since 2008, said, "We see strange things all the time." But even for seasoned exterminators, who have observed first-hand what mother nature’s creatures were capable of, this was next level.
"Unreal," he said, "never came across something like this."