Short answer: The woodpecker is most likely not crazy and noshing on the house is not what the woodpecker has in mind.  Woodpeckers could be pecking on homes for a variety of reasons, all of which can drive a non birder a bit batty.

Talk about pesky, a Northern Flicker like the bird above liked to peck foam off of the space shuttle.  Yikes!  So, why do woodpeckers peck on human made structures?

Reason 1: Territory

 

This is the time of year when a variety of birds are setting up breeding territories.  There are several species of birds we enjoy for their songs–American Robins, Carolina Wrens, Wood Thrushes and maybe even Red-winged Blackbirds. Woodpeckers aren’t known for their musical song and quite frankly, that’s not what brings the ladies in.  Woodpeckers aren’t the lead singers of the band…they are the drummers.  And that’s what they do to get female attention.  Woodpeckers like to use something that is loud and will resonate…usually a hollow tree.  But sometimes a gutter will work just as well. Here’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker using a gutter drain:

Reason 2: Nesting

If a woodpecker is making large holes, they could be creating a roosting spot or a cavity to raise a family of young woodpeckers.  This is something that should be dealt with early.  You don’t want to discover a wall full of peckers and have to wait until the brood fledges to patch it up…you run the risk of forgetting it and even worse have starling take it over after the woodpeckers leave.

Reason 3: Food

Sometimes woodpeckers will make several small holes, this is a sign that they are searching for food.  Some say they are able to hear larvae of leaf cutter bees chewing in gaps in cedar siding and peck at the sounds of the larvae.  If you leave small holes unattended, that will serve as a beacon to other woodpeckers that someone saw the area as a source of food and make more holes.  You could end up with a minor problem…or you could end up with a really big Acorn Woodpecker problem.

Uh oh…the feeder’s empty…that Red-bellied Woodpecker could be eying your house…

For any of these problems, you need act fast and you need to be persistent.  The most important thing that you need to know is that plastic fake owls do not work.  Plastic owls do not move and birds figure out that they are fake quite quickly…apart from the odd Cooper’s Hawk.  You need something shiny or even better yet, you need something mobile, something that is randomly mobile or mobile and noisy as soon as the woodpecker shows up.

Some people try using insecticidal paint, especially when woodpeckers are making small holes to get at insects, but that needs to be reapplied often–sometimes once every year or every two years.

The older thinking used to be using red shiny mylar strips hanging off of your home.  For those who dig recycling, you could hang old CDs from Jesus Jones or the Spice Girls on wire (okay, band isn’t important, but I will be super disappointed if anyone hangs a Bowie CD…unless it’s Tin Machine, no one would blame you for that).

The new fangled idea these days is to use something called a Scare Spider.  My guess is that some Halloween shop had an excessive amount of these motion sensitive spiders left, an employee had a woodpecker problem and put then put two and tow together like chocolate and peanut butter with hopeful results.  The idea is that a woodpecker flies up, a big hairy spider drops down and the bird flies away–badda bing, badda boom…woodpecker scared away.  I think you could the same effect if have one of those old singing Billy Basses sitting in a garage or attic.

If you want the ultimate solution, switch to aluminum siding and remember deal with it quickly…especially if you live an an area with Acorn Woodpeckers.

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Written by Birdchick
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog, Birdchick.com, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.