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Living With Nuisance Wildlife - Woodpeckers

Although a relatively infrequent problem nationwide, woodpecker damage to homes and outbuildings can be significant in our region. Woodpeckers can not only be annoying by hammering or "drumming" on houses but can also cause property damage by drilling holes in wood siding and eaves.

Woodpeckers hammer to attract mates, to establish and defend territories, to excavate nesting sites and to search for insects. Wooden shingles, cedar or redwood siding, metal or plastic guttering, television antennas and light posts are selected as drumming sites because these materials produce loud sounds. Wooden siding is also attractive to woodpeckers as hollow spaces behind the siding can indicate that insects are present in the wood or that the wood is soft enough for nest excavation.

So, if woodpeckers have damaged a home, what is a homeowner to do? Short of shooting the birds, which are protected by strict state and federal laws, there are several techniques available. Of course, if the structure is infested with insects this should be remedied as it is an attractant to woodpeckers. After eliminating possible insects, promptly fill all holes with patching compound. Then, depending on the building, metal flashing, tin can tops, or quarter-inch hardware cloth can be temporarily placed over the old holes to prevent further damage.

To keep the birds from the general area three-quarter inch garden netting can also be anchored three inches from the wall of the structure. Another technique proven effective is the use of pie pans, strips of Mylar tape (1 inch wide), or Mylar balloons hung from eaves overtop the affected area. Plastic owl decoys and hawk silhouettes are much less reliable. Most ornithologists warn against the use of odor repellants, sticky substances, or loud alarms. Most birds have no appreciable sense of smell, sticky traps are messy and kill other wildlife and alarms do not work consistently and may disturb neighbors. And lastly, keep a sense of perspective! Your home is not being singled out for woodpecker vandalism, they are simply responding to the overwhelming biological urge to find a mate, set up a territory, and raise their young.

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