About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How do I stop woodpeckers from pecking on my house?

We have had what I believe to be a Hairy Woodpecker pecking on the roof of our house and flying into our great room windows for about a week. I figured it would eventually give up before it damages the house or hurts itself, but I may be wrong. Any suggestions for getting the bird to stop?

Woodpeckers can cause a great deal of property damage and sleepless mornings. In one study, the birds stopped drumming 50 percent of the time within two weeks or so whether the homeowners did anything or not. My personal recommendation is to try to break the woodpeckers drumming before it becomes a habit. As Barney Fife says “nip it in the bud”. Hopefully I can suggest a solution that will work with your woodpecker.

Why Woodpeckers Peck Your Home
Woodpeckers damage structures for basically three reasons:

1. Searching for insects or hiding food (Some people find feeding suet distracts a woodpecker from their house.)
2. Creating cavities for nesting and shelter (Sometimes putting a woodpecker house helps deter damage.)
3. Drumming (Drumming is a means of communication between woodpeckers. Like some birds sing, woodpeckers drum. There are different drumming calls that they may use: mating; alarm; or territorial. This can be heard over long distances, if they use a surface with adequate acoustic properties.)

Hairy Woodpecker / Pic cheveluImage by Eric B├ęgin via FlickrLaws
Woodpeckers are a federally protected bird under the North American Migratory Bird Act. So you can't use lethal control on woodpeckers without contacting your Federal Wildlife Officer.

Strategies to Control Woodpecker Damage
Unfortunately, there is no easy guaranteed solution. So with that being said, try the following strategies:

1. Check for insects. Woodpeckers feed on insects in wood.
2. Cover all damage as soon as possible. Place aluminum flashing over the areas where the woodpecker is pecking. The flashing will stop the pecking at that spot because: a) it is metal, b) it changes the sound, and c) woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. Just make sure that the woodpecker is not living in your home.
3. Scare the woodpecker away using one or more of the following:

  • Mylar tape: Wild Birds Unlimited has some Mylar tape (1-inch-wide strips) flutter ribbon you can hang in the area. Woodpeckers don't like shiny objects. If you don't have Mylar, hang tinfoil, aluminum pie plates, or old CDs or DVDs.
  • Mylar balloons: The dollar stores usually have shiny Mylar balloons you can hang in the area.
  • Garden hose: One animal damage controller recommends placing a garden hose with a sprinkler set at an angle to reach where the bird is drumming. The woodpeckers leave after a few squirts because they don't like hanging on to wet structures.
  • Attack spider: This is a relatively new (2003) technique. A large spider drops down at the first knock to scare woodpeckers through sight and motion. These can be found at party stores now. It also scares little trick or treaters. Bonus!
  • Owl effigies: These are only effective if you are willing to move them around on a daily basis. I don’t really recommend these but we usually carry them at Wild Birds Unimited.
  • Exclusion techniques: If woodpeckers are damaging your siding under an eave, hang some netting from the eave line down to the ground. If the net is extended away from the house wall, the woodpecker can't get close enough to damage the wood.
Also, as soon as you notice problems, take action quickly before the woodpecker decides your home is a nice place to live.

If the attack on windows is a regular occurrence and not just an accidental window strike, the likely behavior is a reaction to the bird seeing an intruder on its territory. A simple solution to this problem is to cover the window with screens or rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection. The Mylar tape or balloons also work to keep the birds away from your windows.

Good luck.

Source: MSU Extension- http://www.extension.org/faq/926
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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll say that the aluminum probably wouldn't work. Our woodpeckers love to drum on the metal fireplace caps in our neighborhood around sunup all Spring long. What a way to wake up -- it sounds like gunfire going off inside your house the first time you hear it! We love the woodpeckers, though, and feed them suet so they don't peck our wooden siding.

Anonymous said...

Just spray the area with a solution of vinegar and water. The woodpeckers don't like the smell or taste, and it won't hurt them or stain your house.

Anonymous said...

Every morning for the past few days at 730 am "woody" pecks at my aluminum gutters. I run out there and yell at him but he always comes back a few minutes later. This morning he decided to do it outside my bedroom. Although I think he is adorable and he is getting to be a pest (especially if I want to sleep in). Is this normal behavior or do I have a woodpecker with mental problems. I bought a suet today to hopefully defer him.

The Examiner said...

That is basically what I was going to say also. I have two woodpeckers that take turns drumming, lightly I think, on my aluminum chimney cap or the side of my house. It is the same time that you said - sunrise to after sunset. Always in the same place.