How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers
But they all make the characteristic tapping noise that sets them apart from other birds. Here are a few other common features to help confirm that you’re looking at a woodpecker:
- Black, red, white, or yellow, many with patches of color on their head or neck
- Range in size from 2.5”-20”
- Most species have two toes on each side of their feet, which help them grip branches
- Longer talons than those of most small birds
- Found primarily in wooded areas, but may also be spotted in parks, orchards, or suburban areas with trees
- Generally have larger bills than other birds their size
- Short bursts of fast, repetitive tapping noises; up to 20 times per second
- Can be found throughout North America and around the world
How To Identify:
- 5”-7” in length
- White bellies, black wings with white spots
- Males have a red patch on their heads
- Females bear a black patch on their head
- Found in any wooded area, including cities and parks
- Make a whinnying call in addition to their famous tapping noise
- Found across North America
How To Identify:
- 8”-9” long
- Black and white wings with a red head area
- Particularly attracted to suet
- Favor dead trees and limbs over live ones
- Found throughout the eastern United States
How To Identify:
- 7”-10” in length
- Black wings with white spots along the edges
- Males feature a red patch on their heads; females are black and white only
- Usually spend their time excavating trunks, unlike down woodpeckers, which excavate branches
How To Identify:
- 10”-14” in length
- Tan with dark spots on breast; black patch on chest
- May also have red or yellow under wings, depending on geography
- Prefer to forage for food on the ground; drill mostly for nesting purposes
How To Identify:
- 16”-19” in length
- Black body with white streaks on the head and spiky red feathers on the crown
- Can excavate holes as big as 3”-6”
- Wary of humans and rarely seen outside of wooded areas
Facts About Woodpeckers
- Woodpeckers peck to create nesting spaces, communicate with other birds, forage for insects, and attract mates.
- Their long, sticky tongues help them catch insects.
- They peck up to 12,000 times per day.
- They are found on every continent, except Australia and Antarctica.
- Insects are their primarily diet, but they may also eat fruits and nuts.
- Their skulls are designed to absorb the impact of repeated taps against wood.
Can Woodpeckers Transmits Diseases to People?
While woodpeckers present no risks to human health or safety, they can cause extensive property damage. They may excavate siding or wood on a home’s exterior and use it to nest or forage for food. This creates holes through which pests like termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and rodents can invade. These holes also allow water to leak inside and cause wood to rot or decay.
Why Are There Woodpeckers On My Property?
- Food: Woodpeckers consume insects, so a large number of woodpeckers on your property may point to an insect infestation. Treating the insect problem may make your property less attractive to woodpeckers.
- Habitat: Woodpeckers nest in trees or other wooden structures. If you live in or near a wooded area, you are more likely to see or hear these birds near your home. If your house has sustained damage from excavators like carpenter bees or ants, it will be more attractive to woodpeckers looking for a home.
- Weather and Geography: Most breeds of woodpeckers do not migrate, which means that you may see them year-round. Though they live across the U.S., they may prefer warmer climates and are less typical in the Southwest.
- House Characteristics: Studies have shown that woodpeckers are most attracted to homes with grooved wooden siding. They are least drawn to homes with metallic or vinyl exteriors in lighter colors. Additionally, woodpeckers have been shown to prefer natural, unpainted wood to wood that has been finished.
If you haven’t heard this noise but still suspect you may have woodpeckers on your property, look for these signs:
- Foraging holes: small, deep holes often in vertical or horizontal rows, which woodpeckers may use to forage for insects
- Mating holes: shallow holes in clusters, which woodpeckers may have drilled while making their characteristic mating noise
- Nesting holes: deeper, wider holes in your home that woodpeckers may use as nests
Where to Find Them
Effects on Residential Property
Signs of Woodpecker Damage
Woodpecker Damage vs. Termite Damage
Unlike termites, woodpeckers do not eat the wood they excavate. They chip it away with their strong beaks to reach their real source of food: insects. It’s easy to tell the difference between termite damage and woodpecker damage:
- Termite-infested wood will often be caked with mud or soil.
- Woodpecker damage appears in round holes, whereas termite damage is irregular.
- Termites are soundless in their excavation.
- Termites do not excavate to find another wood source but consume the wood itself.
Woodpecker Damage vs. Carpenter Bee Damage
If you’ve noticed damage on your home’s exterior, use these tips to distinguish whether woodpeckers or carpenter bees caused it.
- Carpenter bees holes are smaller and deeper than woodpecker holes.
- Carpenter bees make a buzzing noise, rather than a tapping sound.
- Carpenter bees only drill into exposed and unfinished wood, while woodpeckers will drill into new wood and occasionally even metal surfaces.
Woodpecker Damage vs. Carpenter Ant Damage
Neither woodpeckers nor carpenter ants actually eat the wood itself. Both excavate through wood to reach another food source. Here’s how to tell the difference between woodpecker damage and carpenter ant damage:
- Carpenter ants can only excavate wood that has been previously water-damaged or is decaying.
- Carpenter ants sound like faint rustling in the walls as opposed to the loud, noticeable tapping noise of woodpeckers.
- Carpenter ants that enter homes are often seeking sweet or sugary substances similar to their honeydew from aphid, whereas woodpeckers eat insects, nuts, and fruit.
Peak Seasonal Activity
- Woodpeckers begin excavating nests around late April or May.
- Mating season begins in April and May, when they loudly drum to find a mate.
- Female woodpeckers lay eggs the day after mating.
- Woodpeckers in southern states may produce two broods per season.
- Woodpeckers may excavate again in the fall to make a warmer nest for the winter.
- Sunflower seeds
- Fruit jelly
Protect and Remove Trees
If you have any dead trees on your property, you should also invest in having these removed. In addition to being unsightly, dead trees offer the optimal environment for bugs and insects. The more insects that are attracted to your property, the more woodpeckers will follow, as well as many other animals.
Bird Spikes and Netting
Woodpeckers are smart enough to avoid bird spikes, which are made of plastic and metal. Bird netting protects trees and can also be used on eaves and the tops of buildings. When using bird netting for your house, follow the same principles required for using the material on your trees. Make sure that your netting is at least ¾” thick and that there is a gap of a few inches between the netting and the building.
When to Call a Professional
- Reduce the insect population in your yard
- Help seal up bird holes to prevent more from flocking
- Educate you along the way on methods you can use regularly to continue protecting your home
- Save you time and money by performing a full initial inspection to identify the sources of your woodpecker problem (certain trees or areas that need to be treated)
- Employ methods that are only safe to for a trained technician to use, such as bird removal through trapping
Identify the species of woodpeckers on your property in order to create more targeted solutions
True to their name, woodpeckers are one of the more irritating types of birds because of their constant pecking. Their special beaks allow them to chip through wood without hurting themselves, enabling them to nest inside trees, feed on insects inside them, and tap on them in order to create a rhythmic drumming mating song.
Because woodpeckers feed on wood-boring insects, they can help eliminate much of the population inside your yard and prevent them from coming toward your home. But they can also cause extensive, irreversible damage to trees. At the beginning of spring, these birds are in their nesting season and more likely to come around. People have reported seeing as many as eight woodpeckers on their property during this time. Having so many on one plot of land can lead to even more damage, since less food will prompt them to turn to other sources like wooden walls, beams, windowsills, and doors around homes.
Luckily, many wildlife removal companies specialize in woodpeckers, and there are trained professionals who can use special methods toward ridding your property of the birds. Many of these methods you can also use on your own.
Reduce Food Sources
- Flash tape: Flash tape is usually made out of Mylar, a reflective material that reflects light. Hang the tape around your home on eaves and trees. As it sways in the wind, the flash tape will bounce light in different directions, distracting and scaring the birds while they’re flying or trying to feed. The tape ribbons can also create a slight noise as they bang together, adding to their success as a scare tactic.
- Fake birds: Woodpeckers are smart enough to recognize their predators, but not smart enough to realize if they’re fake. By placing plastic or ceramic birds inside your trees and along your yard, woodpeckers will be more likely to stay away since they’ll perceive your property as belonging to that bird’s territory. As owls are known aggressors toward woodpeckers, plastic owls have been reported as effective repellents. There are also fake mechanical birds that move their heads and make accurate distress noises, which are even more likely to scare woodpeckers away.
- Scarecrows: Scarecrows aren’t just for farms. Essentially, a scarecrow is a fake human made out of straw or cotton stuffed inside clothing. They work in the same way that fake birds work, in that the woodpeckers will think it is a real person and keep their distance.
- Distress calls: Audio files of animal calls are available online as well as in CD form. Some of woodpeckers’ natural predators are feral cats, foxes, hawks and coyotes. Using any type of speaker that you own, you can play these animals’ calls near your home to deter woodpeckers from coming nearby. Similar to the way faux birds repel them, woodpeckers can’t distinguish audio files as fake. Before using this tactic, you should make sure the sounds aren’t loud enough to disturb your neighbors.
- Ultrasonic Repellents: Ultrasonic repellents emit a high-frequency noise that isn’t detectable to people, but birds find it irritating and difficult to get used to. Many of these products are motion-activated, so they’ll turn on at the presence of a bird and cause them to fly away.
- Chemical repellents: Chemical bird repellents are available on the market, usually in spray and gel form. Some of these products contain toxins called methyl anthranilate and anthaquinone, which aren’t lethal but which create uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and confusion. By applying these repellents to trees, the woodpeckers who ingest them are less likely to return to the same spot.
- Deterrent paint: Special paints are also available in stores and online that contain chemicals to deter woodpeckers with their odor and taste. As with chemical repellents, woodpeckers will experience discomfort and confusion if they ingest or come near the paint. These paints are ideal for keeping these birds away from houses, whereas chemical repellents are better used on trees and vegetation.
- Suet feeders: Suet is a food commonly made from animal or vegetable fat to which woodpeckers are very attracted. The birds will likely choose easily accessible suet over continuing to peck through your vegetation. Suet cakes are available at most pet stores and fit inside common bird feeders. But because suet appeals to many other species as well, keep your bird feeder high in a tree and out of reach of other animals. Also keep the feeder as far from your house as possible to mitigate the disturbance they could cause for you. Suet melts in hot weather, so you need to bring the feeder inside on hotter spring days and use another option throughout the summer.
- Plants: Woodpeckers are also attracted to sweet fruits and berries. By planting these as far from your home and trees as possible, the woodpeckers might be tempted away.
- Birdhouses: By offering attractive roosting areas on the perimeter of your property, you can lure woodpeckers away from your trees and house. Simple birdhouses can be enough to give woodpeckers a new roosting area. If you set up a birdhouse, just be sure that it isn’t too close to your own home.
DIY Treatment Methods
- Beef fat, lard, butter, or any other type of fat (animal or vegetable)
- Bird seeds
- Small microwave-safe bowl
- Muffin tin
- Melt the fat in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Remove the bowl and stir in as many bird seeds as you’d like until they’re mixed properly with the fat.
- Spoon the mixture into your muffin tin.
- Refrigerate the suet cakes for at least an hour, until hardened.
You can add additional foods to your suet cakes if you’d like, such as fruits and nuts. If you don’t have a bird feeder, you can also add rope or twine to the cakes before they have hardened. Once they are ready, you’ll be able to hang the cakes from tree branches using the rope you’ve added.
Household Scare Tactics
- Balloons: Balloons move easily in the wind and resemble the shape of a human head or a large bird, such as an owl. If you have balloons on hand inside your home, you can make them even scarier to woodpeckers by drawing on large animal eyes. Tie them to beams on your house or tree branches to intimidate woodpeckers and keep them from damaging your property.
- Reflective devices: If you don’t’ have reflective tape on hand, there are many household items which you can tie to strings and place around your yard in order to scare away woodpeckers. Use aluminum foil, CDs, small mirrors, or anything else small enough to tie to a string which you don’t mind leaving outside. The more objects, the better – they’ll reflect light in many directions and confuse the birds. They could also create a small obstacle course which woodpeckers would rather avoid instead of fighting through to get to your trees.
- Sprinklers and floodlights: If you already have sprinklers and floodlights, use them to your advantage. It isn’t very costly to add motion sensors to them, and these can keep woodpeckers at bay. Any time a bird gets too close, they’ll turn on and assault it with light or water, effectively scaring it away.
While woodpeckers aren’t aggressive toward humans and are more scared of us than we are them, they can still be dangerous to come in contact with without the proper precautions which wildlife professionals and trained to always use. The investment may also help save you money in the long run. Instead of purchasing a variety of products to find the one that works, a pest control expert will know exactly what to do and get straight to the source of the infestation.
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