Have you been hearing that repetitive pecking noise on or around your house lately? It’s probably a woodpecker. If you want to know how to keep woodpeckers off your house, read on.
If you’ve noticed woodpeckers pecking at your house, there are typically two main reasons. Drumming and feeding.
As we’ve said above, woodpeckers use drumming to communicate with each other. When claiming territory or looking for mates, they are going to want the sound of their drumming to travel as far as possible. Metal is the best surface to achieve loud sounds that carry far. Often woodpeckers will choose metal gutters, chimney guards, satellite dishes or siding. They aren’t trying to drill holes or dig in, just make noise. This can certainly be loud and annoying, but may not be causing any damage. In many cases, this drumming will only go on in the Spring, so if you can wait it out the birds will likely stop on their own.
Looking for Food
If you see woodpeckers drilling into your siding, trying to get under your siding and leaving actual holes, they are probably trying to get at insects. This is much more likely to happen with wood siding and shingles than vinyl siding.
If woodpeckers are constantly creating noise or damage to your home, I can understand wanting to discourage them. First off – it is illegal to harass or harm woodpeckers under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Also, they are very beneficial birds to the environment. So let’s look at some legal and safe ways to deter them from your home.
The number one reason woodpeckers would be causing damage and making holes in your home is because there are insects under the siding they are trying to eat. Woodpeckers will go after carpenter ants, bees, flies, beetles, and other bugs and their larvae that may be nesting under your siding. It would probably be worthwhile to call an exterminator and have them come out to your property and investigate if you have an insect infestation. Once the bugs are under control, that means less food for the woodpeckers to find.
Try offering an easier, more readily available food source to distract them, such as putting up a suet feeder. If they are already pecking at your house, you can try putting the suet feeder close to the problem area, and once they find it slowly moving it further away from your house.
Set up a pretend predator. Hawks and Owls are natural predators of woodpeckers and if a woodpecker thinks they see one on your house, they may be scared away. These can be hit or miss, some birds get used to them after a time and catch-on that they aren’t going to hurt them. But many people have success especially with moving them to different locations around the house from time to time. This Solar Action Owl on Amazon would be a great one to try. It has a solar panel that will swivel the owls head every few minutes, making the owl seem more lifelike.
For whatever reason, woodpeckers do not like shiny objects. Perhaps the bright reflection of light hurts their eyes or is confusing. But you can use this to your advantage by hanging shiny objects where you are having trouble with woodpeckers. Some people have used CD’s or mylar balloons. Here are three items from Amazon made specifically for use in scaring away birds.
Alternative Nest Site
If the hole the woodpecker is making is unusually large, it may be trying to excavate a nest cavity. Leaving “snags” (standing dead or nearly dead trees) or even 15 foot “stumps” in your back woods or around your property line will give them other options. Or try hanging a nesting house on the trouble spot or in a nearby tree.
Unexpected or frightening sounds may be able to scare birds away. Some people have luck hanging bells or wind chimes in trouble spots. You can also use recordings of hawks, owls or woodpeckers in distress.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology did a study testing different woodpecker deterrents and found that only the shiny/reflective streamers worked with any consistency. They also found that plastic owls and sounds may work at first, but the birds can become familiar with them and they lose effectiveness over time. However people have success with all of these methods, so it will be trial and error to see what will work best for you. I would personally start with the reflective tape / streamers, it is the least expensive and seems to have the best track record.
Do Woodpeckers Have Predators?
There are many predators that will eat adult woodpeckers as well as their young or even their eggs. These include hawks, owls, snakes and raccoons. The greatest threat however comes from habitat loss. Some woodpeckers have been able to adapt to suburban yards and parks. However larger woodpeckers like the Pileated need large tracts of forest in order to breed. Many developers will cut down dead trees from wood lots. For species of woodpecker that use only dead trees for nesting, this leaves few options. Developed areas can also encourage the presence of the invasive European starling, which are known for displacing woodpeckers from nesting sites.
Feeding Woodpeckers In Your Yard
You might think woodpeckers aren’t common feeder birds if they are specialized for drilling into trees. However many species of woodpecker will readily come to your backyard feeder, if you have the food they like.
Some woodpeckers will eat the same birdseed that your other birds enjoy. Especially larger chunks of sunflower or nuts. Because of their toe configuration, balancing on horizontal perches is not easy for woodpeckers. For this reason, tube feeders that only have small horizontal perches at each hole will probably be ignored. A hopper feeder, or a feeder with a ring perch, might work better since there is more room for the woodpecker to position itself.
A cage feeder can actually work fairly well. The cage presents a lot of lattice-work for them to grab onto, and they can also have a surface to balance their tails on which will make them feel more secure. I discovered this accidentally one summer. I put up a tube feeder that was surrounded by a cage to keep out the big “pest’ birds like starlings and grackles.
The Best Food For Woodpeckers
By far the best feeder for woodpeckers is a suet feeder. Suet is generally much preferred by woodpeckers over seed. Also, suet feeders are designed specifically to allow the woodpecker to use its natural body positioning and feeding behavior.
So what exactly is suet?
Technically the fat found around kidneys and loins in beef and mutton. However generally suet refers to most kinds of beef fat. A suet “cake” or “ball” is this fat mixed with nuts, fruits, oats, corn meal or even mealworms. This fat is easily digested and metabolized by many birds, woodpeckers included, and provides a lot of energy. Because of its ingredients, suet can spoil if left too long in warm temperatures.
Any type of suet should be safe to offer in the winter when the cold temperatures will keep it preserved. Raw suet should not be offered in the summer. However “rendered” suet is made from fat with the impurities removed and it lasts much longer. Most commercially sold suet is rendered, and it will usually be advertised on the package as “no-melt” suet. It can be offered in the summer, but beware it may get very soft and should not be left out of it gets too gooey. Too many oils could get on the birds feathers and cause trouble for them. Also be sure to store your suet in a cool and dry place.
The Best Feeders For Woodpeckers
Suet feeders don’t have to be anything fancy. A very simple cage such as this model by Stokes will work fine.
Remember, many woodpeckers are fairly good sized. If there are larger woodpeckers in your area, you might want to size your feeder up accordingly. The larger woodpeckers will be attracted to feeders that give them room to maneuver, and a “tail rest” to aid in their balance. You can buy single suet-cake feeders that have tail rests, however for a few bucks more, I would recommend a double cake feeder.
This birds choice feeder holds two suet cakes, and has a nice large tail rest. Suet is accessible from both sides. Larger woodpeckers will like this design much better. It is also your best chance if you are trying to attract the large Pileated woodpecker. It costs a bit more, but is made from recycled plastic and should last you a very long time. Plus I like plastic because you can really scrub it for cleaning.