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Those Pesky Woodpeckers
By Charles Kennedy

Somebody's knocking at the door, and it's 5 o'clock in the morning. You roll over in bed hoping they will go away. Do they? Not a chance, in fact it begins to sound like they have climbed to the roof and are beating on a metal drum. What kind of lunatic is this? It's old "Woody" of course, the neighborhood percussionist greeting the dawn with a drum roll.

A woodpecker pounding on the side of your house or on a metal vent cap at 5 AM, or any other time, can be quite annoying and also result in some expensive repairs to the wood siding on your house. The suggestions in this article may work, and they may not. Try the easy ones first, you may get lucky. Before you resort to violence however, remember that there is no open season on woodpeckers. This is especially true in Alabama. The state bird, the Northern Flicker, is a woodpecker and one of the most notorious house peckers. We are always on the lookout for new solutions for this problem. If you have been successful with a tactic that is not included below let us know about it. 

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck?
Three Reasons (number one is the most likely)

They are trying to establish territories and attract mates.
This predominantly springtime behavior, called drumming, generally is done in rapid succession on resonant dead tree trunks or limbs. However, buildings and utility
Northern Flicker - State Bird of Alabama and one of the most notorious house peckers. poles, when available, are often alternatives. Drumming may occur a number of times during a single day, and may last for some days or weeks.

They are looking for food.
Woodpeckers naturally search vertical surfaces of tree trunks and branches for wood boring beetles, carpenter ants, and other insects. The pecking style used for feeding is much different from drumming. Only a few pecks are made and then the resulting hole is explored with the bird's bill and tongue. This behavior will continue until an insect is found or the bird is satisfied that one is not there. Then the woodpecker may hop a few inches away and peck at another place. The damage from this feeding activity usually occurs in horizontal lines that follow tunnels made by the insects. The side of a house is not usually a very productive place to search for insects and grubs especially if insect pest controls are used by the homeowner. Board and batten wood siding seems to be the type that is the most attractive to woodpeckers. There is evidence that leafcutter bees store leaf-wrapped larvae in the gaps found in this type of siding. One rather odd theory proposes that woodpeckers hear the humming and clicking of electrical appliances inside the house and assume that the sound is coming from a bountiful supply of insects. 

They are excavating a nest cavity.
This is usually done on a dead tree or broken snag. An attack of this kind on the side of a house is not very common. If this is what they are doing they will drill through the exterior wall rather quickly and may drill all the way into the house.

How Can I Get Them To Stop Pecking On My House?
Four Ways (only number four is guaranteed to work).

Give them a good scare.
At the first sign of woodpecker activity on your house, woodpeckers might be scared away by doing something as simple as making noises at a nearby window or against the adjacent inside wall. If this fails, hang strips of foil, fabric or commercially available bird netting from the eaves to deter the birds. Other scare tactics include placing hawk or owl cutouts on the house, hanging balloons in the area, a child's pinwheel, flash tape, strings of shiny, noisy tin can lids, wind chimes and/or pulsating water sprinklers. There are a few mechanical devices available for purchase that are advertised as woodpecker deterrents. Most of these are motion sensitive and cause something to move or make a noise when activated. One that we have seen advertised drops a spider on a string when motion is detected.  The noisemakers may be more irritating than the woodpecker. We have not tested any of these devices and are not willing to recommend them at this time. Woodpeckers can be very persistent and are not easily driven from their territories or selected pecking sites. For this reason, visual or sound types of repellents should be employed as soon as the problem is identified and before territories are well established. Scare tactics are considered to be the least effective means for dealing with this problem.

If you plan to use scare tactics one of these might work...




Here's a scare tactic from one of our website visitors.

A flicker woke me up every morning pecking on the molding at the ceiling inside the two-story roof over my front porch. He did a lot of damage. When I finally realized that he was roosting there, beginning at about 5 p.m., I tried loud music and a bright flashlight to no avail. He would just stare me down. After dark when he put his head under his wing, he just ignored me. I put together a long pole and decided to poke him. Before dark as he saw the pole rising, he would fly away. If I went back into the house, he would come back to his roost. On two successive days I then returned right after dark. He didn't like being sent away to look for another roost after dark, so after the second time on two successive nights that I raised the bamboo pole and almost touched him, he flew away and has not been back. Maybe this report will help someone else.

Create a barrier between the woodpecker and the house.
If scare tactics don't work, create a physical barrier by screening the drumming site with hardware cloth, sheet metal, or nylon bird netting. Netting is one of the most effective methods of excluding woodpeckers. A mesh of 3/4" is usually recommended. At least 3" of space should be left between the netting and the damaged building so that birds cannot cause damage through the netting. This approach has proved to be the most effective technique short of killing the bird.

Give them something else to peck on.
It might work to provide an alternative drumming site by nailing two boards together at just one end and hanging on a secure surface. If you have dead trees in your yard, you might think removing them and the insects they harbor will solve your woodpecker problems. Again, the opposite may be true. Cutting down dead and decaying trees deprives the birds of nesting, drumming and food sites and may force them to take a look at your house. This tactic is a long shot. Don't put too much hope in it.

Remove the woodpecker from your property.
No, don't just go get your shotgun and start blasting away, as tempting as this may be. Call a professional pest control company and see if they have any experience with trapping woodpeckers. You might even be able to trap them yourself and take them on a trip to the boondocks (they may come back though). If it gets bad enough you may be forced to contact a wildlife services office to request a depredation permit. They will ask you to fill out forms explaining the problem and after a month or so of bureaucratic deliberation may give you the permit. Then you can get out your shotgun and start blasting away. Be careful not to shoot a hole in the house.  

Perhaps you don't have any woodpeckers in your yard an would like to
have some. Click Here to read "Attracting Woodpeckers In Alabama".

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