Angry Woodpecker Responsible for Rash of Car Vandalism Complaints Outside Atlanta

Witnesses claim the woodpecker was laughing maniacally as it flew away.

Getty Images | WSB-TV | YouTube

It's one of the most maddening experiences as a car owner. You head outside to start your day, only to discover that your car has been mysteriously damaged overnight. Was it a hit-and-run? Bored teenage vandal? For the frustrated residents of Gwinnett County, Georgia, the answer turned out to be a little more wild than either of those usual suspects: A woodpecker with a grudge.

According to WSB-TV, dozens of people living in the town of Snellville reported finding the side mirrors on their cars smashed to pieces. The vandal seemed to target the mirrors at all hours of the day, leaving police to wonder whether the culprit was in fact a kid with a BB gun, striking from the shadows. In response to all this, Snellville Police actually sent more patrols through the affected neighborhoods to flush the suspect out.

It's easy to poke fun at a few cops staking out a civilian's car and waiting for a mysterious figure to show up and bust a mirror, but the sheer number of damaged cars probably convinced officers that they were dealing with a serial vandal, one who could possibly graduate to more serious crimes.

Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. After replacing the mirrors on both his and his wife's cars, this weekend, area resident John Hancock caught a pileated woodpecker "red-headed" as it came back to attack again. 

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About the size of a crow, pileated woodpeckers are extremely territorial birds. Experts say the specimen in question probably mistook its reflection in the mirror for another woodpecker and attacked—over and over and over again.

Since it's also a protected species, residents can't trap, shoot, or harm the bird in any way, resorting instead to covering their side mirrors with plastic bags until it moves on. As usual, the woodpecker gets the last laugh.