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Woodpeckers can peck holes in wooden house siding, gutters, drainpipes, and chimney and exhaust vents. The noise and damage from this pecking activity sometimes is annoying.

Pileated woodpeckers

There are three reasons why woodpeckers peck on houses. The first and most common is to establish territories and attract mates. This predominantly springtime behavior, called drumming, generally is done in rapid succession on resonant dead tree trunks or limbs. However, buildings and utility poles, when available, are often alternatives. Drumming may occur a number of times during a single day and may last for some days or months. The second reason woodpeckers attack our houses is to feed on insects that may have infested our siding. They naturally search vertical surfaces of tree trunks and branches for wood-boring beetles, carpenter ants, and other insects. The pecking style used for feeding is much different than drumming. Only a few pecks are made and then the resulting hole is explored with the bird’s bill and tongue. This behavior will continue until an insect is found or the bird is satisfied that one is not there. Then the woodpecker may hop a few inches away and peck at another place. The damage from this feeding activity usually occurs in horizontal lines that follow tunnels made by the insects. The third reason for woodpecker damage occurs when they excavate nesting cavities through house siding. Cedar siding is fairly soft and particularly vulnerable to woodpecker attacks of this nature. Fortunately, this attack is not very common.

Prevention and Control Methods

One of the most effective methods of excluding woodpeckers from damaging wood siding is to cover the siding with lightweight mesh nylon or plastic netting hung from the eaves. The netting should be kept at least 3 in out from the siding. Another exclusion technique is to cover the siding with sheets of plastic. Woodpeckers will not be able to perch on this smooth surface. Limited success can be obtained in some situations by using model owl or hawk silhouettes or various noise-making devices. Woodpeckers can be very persistent and are not easily driven from their territories or selected pecking sites. For this reason, visual or sound types of repellents should be employed as soon as the problem is identified and before territories are well established.

Photo taken by BIWF board member Mary Kirby

Cited by University of Florida Florida Wildlife Extension