By Judy Sedbrook, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver
Current trends in home building have significantly increased problems of woodpecker
Woodpeckers damage buildings by "drumming" to attract females and by drilling
holes in their search for insects and nesting sites. Woodpecker damage is most likely to
occur in spring and fall, but spring is the biggest damage season. They are attracted to
houses because of their large size and better sound production, especially those with
wooden siding, eaves, or trim boards made of cedar or redwood. The new synthetic stucco
materials being applied over Styrofoam insulation also are proving to be popular with
The key to successful control is to take action as soon as a woodpecker shows signs of
becoming a pest. If it is allowed to establish its behavior pattern, it will become much
more difficult to stop.
If the bird is merely drumming, you can eliminate the drumming noise by deadening the
resonant area. Fill the hollow space with caulk.
If the woodpecker is creating holes in a search for food, your first step in
eliminating the problem is to check for signs of insect infestation. If insects are found,
you will want to consult with a licensed pest control operator on how to remove the
insects and eliminate future infestations. If you can't find any insects, try some of
these other techniques:
- Distraction. Providing a feeder full of suet may entice the birds away from your
home or birdfeeder.
- Exclusion. Woodpeckers may be excluded from some surfaces by covering them with
plastic or lightweight nylon mesh, metal sheathing or hardware cloth. Metallic or wooded
surfaces used for drumming may be wrapped or covered with cloth or foam to mute the sound.
An alternative tapping site or surface such as a wooden box hung nearby in a less annoying
location may be considered.
- Visual Repellants. Using visual repellents may also chase the birds away.
- Attach aluminum foil strips, 2-3 inches across and 2-3 feet long, above the targeted
site. The strips should hang freely and move with the breeze. The motion should frighten
the birds away.
- Attach hand-held pinwheels (children's' toys) at the site with nails, pins or tape so
that the revolving vanes are able to move freely.
- Attach a magnifying shaving mirror at the site. The bird may be frightened off by his
- Colorful balloons hung near the area and allowed to move freely may frighten the birds.
Commercially available inflatable owls, hawks and snakes are also available at most garden
- Noise. Sound also can be used to harass offending woodpeckers.
- Light pie plates and metal can lids can be suspended on a string and attached to the
house near the damaged or drumming site. One end of the string can be near a convenient
window or door where the line can be jerked to create noise when the bird is spotted.
- Other noise, such as from banging pans, boards, or clapping hands may also chase birds
- Place a loud-playing radio in a nearby window.
- The playing of recorded calls of birds of prey may be used to augment the threat of
inflatable models of owls and hawks. Also, vocalizations of woodpecker distress calls
(available from sporting good stores) played for short, irregular intervals on continuous
loop tapes have reportedly been used successfully.
- Treatment of the siding with pentachlorophenol or other wood preservatives seems to
repel woodpeckers as well as providing insecticidal and wood-care benefits.
- Sticky, paste-type repellents applied in the damaged area and for several feet on either
side have been effective but may melt and run in hot weather causing stains to building
materials. The birds are not trapped by these substances but dislike the tacky footing.
- Commercial products, available at home and garden shops, have objectionable tastes and
odors and may discourage woodpeckers.
Photographs courtesy of USDA and USGS.
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