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Those Noisy Woodpeckers Are Back!

By Chris Williams on March 3, 2015.

red bellied woodpecker on tree  

Every spring we have a problem with woodpeckers pecking at our house. They make an annoying racket and end up digging holes in the boards along the roofline. Trying to chase them away doesn’t work. Is there anything else we can do to discourage them? P.W., Greenland, NH

The one thing you can’t do is kill or harm them in any way. Woodpeckers are protected by various federal and state laws.

Carpenter Bees Could Be Your Main Problem

Let me venture the hypothesis that you have woodpecker problems because you have carpenter bee problems. You may have noticed the large, noisy, black and yellow bees buzzing around the outside of your house in spring. They chew nest holes in soft, unfinished wood. Woodpeckers peck at the wood trying to reach the juicy bee larvae that are developing inside.

Soffits and fascia boards are a favorite nest site and the bees will return to favorite sites year after year. The holes may not be obvious on the face of the boards since the bees enter from the usually unpainted back side of the wood. Painting, staining, varnishing, or otherwise sealing the susceptible wood can discourage carpenter bee nesting.

Have Colonial Pest inspect your home in spring for evidence of carpenter bee activity. If we find it, we can eliminate the nesting carpenter bees which should solve your woodpecker problem, although it may take a while for the birds to realize that the bee larvae are gone.

Various Methods to Deter Woodpeckers

Sometimes woodpeckers hammer or “drum” on a surface to announce their presence and attract a mate. Sometimes woodpeckers seemingly drum for no reason at all. There are deterrents that you or an exterminator can try. All of these work best when employed as soon as the woodpeckers begin their pecking. Once they have adopted the drumming site, they will be hard to discourage.

  • Sticky repellents – can discourage woodpeckers from pecking on siding and trees, but they can be messy and may stain wood siding.
  • Visual repellents – have shown mixed results. Owl and snake decoys are generally ineffective but bird Scare-Eye balloons sometimes work, as do mylar strips and twirlers.
  • Metal sheathing or flashing – can be placed over the drumming areas to protect it. Birds may just move over to an uncovered site.
  • Loud noises – such as clapping, shouting, cap pistols, or banging on a garbage can lid can sometimes frighten woodpeckers away.
  • Insecticide treatment – of siding and trim can sometimes deter woodpeckers if the birds are, in fact, feeding on insects inside the wood.
  • Bird netting – or plastic sheeting can be strung tightly from the roofline and angled back to the siding below the damaged area to block woodpecker access.

For more on carpenter bees and their woodpecker predators, see these blogs:

Photo credit: Kelly Colgan Azar / Foter / CC BY-ND

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