Woody Woodpecker may be an adorably mischievous cartoon character on screen, but homeowners who have dealt with woodpecker damage in real life are likely less than amused. This type of boisterous bird has been known to peck at house siding, producing an irritating noise and some unsightly damage.
There are more than 20 species of woodpeckers in the U.S., and at any given time you can find some tap, tap, tapping away at tree trunks, branches, utility poles, wood fences, and—most obnoxiously—houses.
So why on Earth won’t your neighborhood Woody leave your house alone, and how can you stop him from hammering? Here’s the lowdown on woodpecker damage.
Why woodpeckers peck
One of the most common reasons why woodpeckers peck is to make a hole to store the fruit, acorns, and other nuts that they’re hoarding.
“They collect them during fall and store them in ‘granaries’ that they create by drilling holes in a wood surface,” says Dick Van Vuren, professor of wildlife biology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis.
Woodpeckers also peck to find food. They like wood-boring insects, especially the larvae of carpenter bees.
“If they’re looking for insects in your siding, the holes will be small, shallow, and plentiful,” says Chuck Reger, franchise business coach for Five Star Painting. They may even store the remains of insects in the holes. Yikes!
But there could be another reason for that rapid-fire tapping noise: The woodpecker might be marking its territory or trying to attract a mate.
“For some woodpeckers, drilling into wood creates a rat-a-tat-tat sound for the sake of signaling another woodpecker,” says Van Vuren.
Unfortunately for homeowners, the wood or metal on the side of your house might make a particularly satisfying sound. And while the woodpecker isn’t trying to make a hole in this case, it might damage the surface it’s tapping on.
How to prevent woodpecker damage
So how can you stop Woody and his friends from pecking on your property? Try out one of the following options.
“The best option for localized spots—say, roost locations—is to install bird spikes, which are available at most hardware stores,” says Van Vuren. Bird spikes are long, needlelike rods that prevent birds from perching on a surface.
If the area is larger—i.e., if the woodpeckers are beginning a granary—our experts recommend covering the surface with a sheet of metal mesh or reflective or shiny objects. This may be effective at keeping the birds away, but it’s not ideal because it can be a bit of an eyesore.
“The other option is to string fishing line across the area, an inch or two above the surface and with lines about 4 inches apart,” Van Vuren says. This works well because it will interfere with the woodpecker’s ability to fly. And from a distance, it’s hard to see, so it isn’t unsightly.
Another idea is to set up a place for the birds to peck away to their hearts’ content.
“Adding a birdhouse near where the drilling has occurred can solve the problem if the woodpeckers are nesting,” Reger says. “You can also add a feeder to your yard to encourage the birds to stay away from your siding and fences.”
If you find holes in your house
If the woodpeckers have bored holes, repair them as quickly as possible with putty to prevent more insects or moisture from getting into your home. After the putty is dry, Reger says you should paint or stain it to match the exterior so the woodpeckers can’t find the original drilling spot.
When to call in the pros
Woodpeckers may be annoying, but don’t even think about harming them to get rid of the problem. They are classified as migratory, nongame birds and are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means that they can’t just be removed like any other pest. Permits are required for the use of traps, and a licensed pest control expert will have to take care of the removal.
“A bird management professional can apply a repellent product in the holes that will discourage the woodpecker from returning there,” says Kim Lewis, division manager of bird management services at Rentokil Steritech, which provides residential and commercial pest control services.
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