Woodpeckers can be beautiful and interesting birds when at your feeders, but they can become real pests when they start pecking on your home. The two primary woodpeckers in our area that are responsible for pecking damage are the downy woodpecker (shown) and the hairy woodpecker. Woodpeckers peck on homes for three reasons:
(1) In spring mating season, woodpeckers “drum” on surfaces to attract mates and establish and defend their territories. Wooden shingles, cedar or redwood siding, metal or plastic rain gutters, chimney caps, even light posts make satisfying drums if you’re a woodpecker.
(2) Woodpeckers also peck on buildings looking for insect food. They are drilling holes trying to fish out wood-boring beetles, carpenter bees, termites, or carpenter ants that are inside the wood. Fat carpenter bee larvae are a special treat for woodpeckers.
(3) A woodpecker may actually be trying to create a nest opening, especially in soft or rotting wood. They will often try to start several nests, unsuccessfully.
Woodpeckers are protected by federal and state laws and cannot be killed. Some nonlethal controls that may work to discourage woodpeckers include hanging visual scare repellents such as mylar strips or balloons, pinwheels, tin plates, even old CDs. Be careful not to hang these items near electrical wiring. Use of sticky repellents, loud noises, or covering the pecked area with metal flashing, plastic sheeting, or netting may also work. In some cases, applying a new finish (paint, stain, water-proofing) on the wood may deter woodpeckers.