Woodpeckers: Pretty. Destructive. Annoying.
If only it were as easy to get rid of Woody the Woodpecker reruns as it is to get rid of woodpeckers. Actually, getting rid of woodpeckers isn’t all that easy either. Employing a good woodpecker control strategy without harming the woodpecker can be a bit tricky.
Sticky resins like Tanglefoot and Roost-No-More that are meant to keep birds off of certain surfaces can do a lot of damage to the bird’s plumage (feathers), and may be inhumane. Even putting suet out in warm weather can damage a bird’s feathers when the suet melts and sticks to the bird while it feeds. In addition to being a bit cruel, these techniques might be illegal in your area.
Considering most woodpeckers are a protected species and the $500 fine that can accompany the wrongful death of said birds, it is in your best interests to handle a woodpecker problem as carefully as possible. The woodpecker control strategies outlined below are presented in order of the least direct to the most direct methods of control, barring any physical or pesticide control measures.
Woodpeckers drum for two reasons: to get food and to stake out their territory. Chances are if you’ve got drumming going on in the spring, it’s a woodpecker claiming his territory by battering your home—letting other woodpeckers know that your home is his turf.
If the drumming continues throughout the summer, then the woodpecker is probably after something other than a mate, like another pest that’s using your siding as shelter.
Woodpeckers know that if they sense wood is hollow, there is a good chance they will find food inside. This is because rotten trees and stumps are usually hollow. The problem is that your front porch wood or house soffit is hollow sounding, but not a rotten tree. The pecker does not know the difference.
In some cases, a woodpecker gradually works on a hole or cavity that can eventually become a nest. You do not want woodpeckers nesting in the wood of your house.
Best Methods of Woodpecker Control
Address Other Infestations
In your efforts to get rid of woodpeckers, it would be wise to carefully examine the outside of your home for any previous damage or pest infestations. There are often times when woodpeckers will attack a home because they’ve detected the presence of an insect that is using your siding for shelter. You may need to get rid of carpenter bees or get rid of carpenter ants before solving your woodpecker problem. Repair any superficial damage immediately using one of the techniques described in the sidebar to your right.
Like with so many things, if you get rid of the bait, the incentive for a woodpecker to show up goes way down.
Distract with Suet
Putting up a suet feeder won’t get rid of woodpeckers, but it will probably distract them from putting more holes in your home. Eric, who works at a wild bird store, has suggested putting the suet feeder close to the area being damaged the most and slowly moving the feeder, day by day, away from that area until the woodpeckers become accustomed to feeding on the suet instead of your house. You can even try making your own version.
It has been suggested that keeping suet feeders out in extremely warm weather may inadvertently coat the woodpecker’s plumage with suet, so keep an eye out for any damage the feeder may be doing to its patrons.
While a suet is pretty easy to make the cake you put inside can be a little trickier. It is easy to buy good ones, like these on Amazon.
Deter with Light
Woodpeckers do not like shiny objects. They are spooked by them.
If the suet feeder isn’t working, visual deterrents may be your next step toward getting rid of woodpeckers. A visual deterrent can be just about anything that moves or reflects light. A lot of bird control vendors sell silhouettes of predatory birds like hawks or falcons that may be hung near the area of your home woodpeckers are damaging the most. Eventually, though, woodpeckers will grow accustomed to the presence of any static visual deterrents and ignore them.
Strips of aluminum foil hung from awnings or pieces of string nailed to the side of your house are considered one of the more effective forms of visual woodpecker deterrents.
Deter with Sound
If visual cues and suet feeders aren’t stopping the woodpecker damage, then you may have to invest in a sound deterrent system. Woodpecker sound deterrence is usually managed with a loudspeaker that detects motion and broadcasts the call of a bird of prey or the distress call of a woodpecker to scare woodpeckers away. Sound deterrence systems aren’t cheap. Some of them run into the hundreds of dollars. Are you willing to spend a few hundred bucks on a sound system solely designed to get rid of woodpeckers? But if you want to give it a go, we’d suggest starting with the Yard Sentinel Ultrasonic Repeller, sold by Amazon.
Deter with Netting
If nothing else works, it’s time to cordon of the area if you really want to prevent woodpecker damage. This is usually done with hardware cloth or with plastic netting made of a mesh that is fine enough to prevent the bird’s wings from getting caught.
Hardware cloth is nice because it’s fairly malleable and it may be painted to match the outsides of your house. Then again, netting is nice because it requires less effort. After all, this should be a temporary solution until you find a way a more effective way to get rid of woodpeckers. This is also a good solution if you don’t have the time to fix any damage done by woodpeckers right away.
The downside of netting? It is ugly! If you are going for aesthetics, or live in a neighborhood where people tend to try to keep things looking like Pleasantville, netting will not look great. On the other hand, if it is going in the back of your house, or you live on 30 acres in the woods, you will probably be fine with netting.
Integrated Woodpecker Control
Although the strategies outlined above should work alone, they are often used together as part of an integrated approach to controlling woodpecker damage. Professionals and extension specialists often recommend that you put up hardware cloth or plastic netting first to stop the woodpecker damage immediately, while at the same time depriving the woodpecker of food. Once the hardware cloth is painted and put into place, you should fix the damage (see the right sidebar), put up visual deterrents, and perhaps put up a suet feeder to help distract the woodpeckers and hopefully get them into the routine of only eating from the suet feeder.
So, to conclude, best results are found when: a) woodpeckers are physically barred from the damage zone, b) damage and/or wood-boring beetles and pests are managed immediately, c) visual deterrents are installed, and c) suet feeders are put up to encourage woodpeckers to feed away from your house. Once the damage is fixed and the woodpeckers are regularly feeding on suet, you shouldn’t have any more problems.
Woodpecker Damage Control and Repair
Damage done by woodpeckers should be fixed immediately to prevent pests, birds, and other woodpeckers from infesting or exacerbating the damage. If you’ve ever seen a tree killed by wood-boring insects and woodpeckers, you’ll understand how superficial damage to your siding can become not-so-superficial damage in a hurry.
Aluminum flashing is a good quick fix for siding that has sustained multiple woodpecker holes. Tack aluminum flashing flat across the damaged area with small aluminum nails to prevent galvanizing. It can easily be painted to match the color of your home.
If you decide to install aluminum flashing, just be sure to install it in a way so that it will not catch and trap water inside. You want the flashing to be tucked inside any shingles or other corners or edges so the water rolls right over it. Improperly-installed flashing has caused water issues on more than one occasion.
Wood putty is another fixer-upper for woodpecker damage, but this requires more time to allow the putty to dry, and is considered a more permanent solution. It is recommended that you set up netting to prevent woodpeckers from upsetting the putty while it hardens. Paint over it to match the color of your home. You can get Elmer’s wood putty (aka wood filler) at Amazon.
Polyurethane or oil-based paints are what you will want to paint the outside of your home with. Many wood-boring pests like Carpenter Bees tend to avoid surfaces painted with these materials. Thus, polyurethane and oil-based paints act as a sort of woodpecker repellent in a very liberal sense of the phrase. Hey, if there’s no food crawling around, no woodpeckers will want to beat up your house.