How To Protect Your House From Damage From Woodpeckers
You may have loved Woody Woodpecker when you were a child, but chances are you don't think so fondly of his real-life cousins, out there battering your wood siding. Aside from the damage, it's noisy and constant and irritating, and they really don't care what time of day it is or what you were trying to do. (Such as sleep.)
You might be wondering what it is they love so much about your house. Is your siding particularly tasty? Should you be worried that you have termites or something? Or do they just plain not like you?
Protecting Your Wood Siding From Woodpeckers
Keep Woodpeckers Off Your Siding
Of course, the real story is that if you live anywhere with trees, there's probably a woodpecker nearby. If you have wood siding, then your house is just another handy tree to that woodpecker.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted a wealth of information about woodpeckers and their behavior. One interesting revelation is that woodpeckers like cedar (and other natural wood) siding best, followed by grooved plywood. They don't seem to be interested in wood composite, and as could be expected, vinyl and aluminum siding is apparently quite bland, unless it's got wooden fascia boards.
Naturally, there are some seasonal considerations. If it's spring, it's breeding season. Woodpeckers are attacking your siding to mark territory and for storage and roosting. If it's winter, bugs aren't as readily available as they are in the spring and summer. This doesn't necessarily mean you have termites or beetles, however. (Or at least not an infestation. But you may have a few tasty stray morsels.)
Whatever the reason, that constant rat-a-tat-tat is surely irksome. The good news is that it's not very hard to evict and deter dear old Woody and pals. Just a squirt of the garden hose may do wonders. Like a dog or any other animal, birds respond to operant conditioning, so you probably won't have to use these measures more than a few times before the bird that's bugging you gets a clue and tries somewhere else.
Here are some methods you can use to shoo away woodpeckers:
Call an exterminator to inspect for termites or other insects that might be luring the bird. If there is an infestation, get it taken care of and thank that bird for the warning! Bang on something from inside your home, on the opposite end from where the woodpecker is drilling. Fake owls often do wonders. Prop up one or two owl effigies on your roof or in the nearby trees. These are usually only temporarily effective, however. The woodpeckers soon become accustomed to the image. You could probably stretch it out by moving the fake owls to new spots occasionally. Block access to insects by caulking any cracks in your siding and repainting. Install sheeting over the woodpecker's preferred area. Repair damage right away the telltale holes may attract other woodpeckers. Use shiny objects to scare the woodpeckers. Tin foil, a mirror, or reflective tape, for instance. Bird-X makes a reflective tape called Irri-Tape, which is a holographic reflective tape that really disturbs birds. Hang the tape, tinfoil, or mirror so that it can catch the breeze and move freely.
Similar to the shiny solutions, hanging windsocks from the corners of your home or attaching handheld windmills to (or near) damage spots can also be very effective. Cover the area in chicken wire or wire mesh, one to two inches from the side of your house. If your woodpecker is trying to nest, set up a nesting box near the damaged area. They don't want to do the work to build one if they don't have to, and will accept your handout. If starlings set up shop instead, paint the inside white. Play tapes that play annoying music, noise, or woodpecker distress calls to spook them. Set up motion detectors that make noise when they sense motion. Affix Mylar reflective tape around the vents or piping, those spots where woodpeckers like to hear themselves tapping away. Cover your eaves with lightweight netting. Install aluminum flashing. Deaden the sound of the drumming by placing padding behind the spots they like.
Woodpeckers tend to leave on their own half the time, even without the efforts of homeowners. If you can ride it out, you might want to just give that a try like a schoolyard bully, he'll give up and go away eventually.
If you don't think you can stomach the persistent pecking, however, you should make efforts to discourage the woodpecker the minute he shows up, before he grows attached to his new location.
Woodpeckers are beneficial, though, and a natural and important inhabitant of your neighborhood. Some woodpeckers are even rare or federally protected, so take care with other methods such as sticky repellents. Sticky repellents can injure the birds, and they can also discolor your siding, or cause dirt to adhere.
You might even want to consider encouraging him to stay. If you do, he'll reward you by eating your garden pests, from beetles to flies to wasps. If you decide to be hospitable, try guiding him to your backyard (or wherever your vegetables or flowers are).
You can do this without a lot of effort by using food. Try planting a nut-bearing tree or some berry bushes. Or hang a feeder and stock it with black oil sunflower seed, suet (a store-bought mix of high- protein animal fat and other ingredients that substitute for the insects they normally dine on), or a seed cake.(A seed cake uses honey to bind the ingredients, rather than animal fat.) Woodpeckers also love peanuts.
For more tips and information, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.