To solve problems with woodpeckers, it’s important to identify the type of behavior they’re exhibiting – drumming, cavity excavation or feeding. If the exterior of the building is infested with carpenter bees, ants, termites or beetles, woodpeckers will drill into the structure to feed on the insect larvae. During the fall, woodpeckers excavate roosting cavities. In the spring, they excavate nesting cavities, and use distinctive drumming to attract mates and tell rival woodpeckers the territory is occupied.
The key to effectively resolving problems with woodpeckers is to recognize activity early and act promptly. If the woodpecker is allowed to continue the behavior for an extended period of time, it will take longer and be much more difficult to change its behavior.
Many species of woodpeckers rhythmically drum on resonating objects with their beaks as a territorial advertisement, similar to the way songs are used by other species of birds. Occasionally, woodpeckers establish drumming “stations” on utility poles, gutters, chimney caps, and other resonant places on buildings. Drumming is typically concentrated in one area of the building and occurs persistently. Damage generally consists of shallow, clustered pock marks or dents.
If the hole is deep, the woodpecker is excavating a cavity for nesting or roosting. These holes will be about 1–2 inches in diameter, and often occur in loose knots in wood siding. They may be surrounded by half-finished holes—woodpeckers often start one hole then abandon it to start another.
Drumming & Cavity Excavation
A combination of prompt repair of damage and simple harassment techniques usually will deter woodpeckers from drumming and excavating cavities.
To discourage drumming, secure loose boards and install wood filler behind any that sound hollow. Smaller boards and chimney caps can be covered with cloth or foam rubber padding until the drumming habit is broken. (Be sure not to completely cover the chimney cap.)
To solve an excavation problem, fill shallow holes with caulk or wood filler. For larger holes, after confirming that no birds are inside, use wooden plugs or wadded window screen to fill the hole and then apply caulk.
After repairs have been made, hanging aluminum pie pans, plastic streamers, wind chimes, Mylar® balloons or strips of aluminum foil from the eaves so they flutter in the wind usually will prevent woodpeckers from creating any further damage.
Another technique is to install reflective, holographic “scare tape” in the affected areas. The best way to install the tape is to apply duct tape to each end and nail one end of each strip to the outer edge of the roof soffit, just under the gutter. Attach the other end to the side of the house, longitudinally. Before attaching this end, twist the strip several times, pull it downward until taut, and then let out about ¼ inch of slack. This will produce a shimmering effect as the tape moves in the wind.
Simple harassment tactics, such as shouting, clapping, or banging on a pot also can be effective. If the behavior is recognized early, sometimes just opening a nearby window or door and making noise is all that’s needed to permanently scare off a woodpecker.
To solve long-term problems with woodpeckers, netting, screen or plastic sheeting can be hung from the eaves and suspended several inches from the affected wall to prevent access.
The first step is to address the insect infestation. After the insects have been eliminated, repair the damage and use the exclusion and harassment techniques described above.
Keep in mind that persistence and consistency are necessary to dissuade woodpeckers from causing damage.