Why is a Woodpecker Pecking on My House?

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“Why is a woodpecker pecking on my house?” A simple question with a seemingly obvious answer: your house is made of wood, and the bird is named “woodpecker” for a reason. Of course, it isn’t really that simple, and it’s no laughing matter. Woodpeckers can damage the house and the constant noise can drive you crazy.

If there’s a woodpecker pecking on your house, you need to address the problem quickly before it causes more damage or sets up a nest. To do that, it’s important to understand why woodpeckers are pecking on your house.

Understanding why woodpeckers peck on houses

There are 3 main reasons a woodpecker might peck on your house. Most often they’re drumming to attract a mate, nesting, or searching for food.

During the breeding season, woodpeckers are probably just pecking your house because it makes a loud noise, and that helps them find a suitable mate. This is called drumming and while it may not cause any physical damage, it’s certainly very loud and very annoying.

If the woodpecker is pecking your house in late April or early May, though, it might be excavating a nest cavity. These cavities are large, round holes. Obviously, you don’t want this on your house, so you’ll want to get rid of the woodpeckers before they’ve constructed a nest cavity. It’s illegal to kill woodpeckers, so once the nest is there you have to leave them be until they’re done using it.

If the holes left by the woodpecker are small and irregular, it’s feeding on insect larvae in the wood. You’ll need to call an exterminator is this is the case, because it means you’ve got an insect infestation which could become a major problem.

Less commonly, the bird may be storing food. Some species of woodpecker feed on acorns, and they will excavate a single, acorn-sized hole in the wood and store an acorn in it, repeating that pattern several times in the wood of your house.


How to get rid of woodpeckers – 8 tips

1. Hang a shiny object near the hole

One of the more reliable methods of getting rid of woodpeckers is to hang something shiny, like a small mirror or pieces of aluminum foil, near the spot where they’re excavating or drumming. Some people suggest that the sight of their reflection frightens the bird, but it isn’t clear if this is true or if there’s some other reason why this works.

2. Fill the hole with wood putty

If the woodpeckers have already started to make a hole in your house, fill it with wood putty. This will often discourage them from coming back, especially if they’re excavating a nesting cavity. Woodpeckers pick their nesting spots carefully, and if you fill it up they’re more likely to abandon the site and move far away than to just make a new hole in your house.

3. Wind Chimes

Wind chimes make a lot of noise, and that noise might just scare away the woodpeckers by fooling them into thinking there are predators nearby. Pinwheels may also work. The noise may not be as important as the motions they make in the wind. Either way, it could be a good woodpecker deterrent, while also providing some peaceful music for you. The sound of wind chimes is a lot nicer than the sound of woodpeckers.

4. Fake Owls

Owls eat woodpeckers, so woodpeckers tend to avoid them. Fake owls are a popular repellent not just for woodpeckers, but for pigeons and all kinds of birds that you might want to scare off. Set them in trees in your yard or on the edge of your roof, as long as they’re visible from the spot where the woodpeckers have been drumming.

5. Make a loud noise

Simple, cheap, and effective- just go outside when you hear the woodpecker and clap your hands or make a loud whooping noise, or just yell at it to go away. You’ll scare the bird off and there’s a good chance it won’t come back.

6. Replace Your Siding

Woodpeckers, as the name suggests, peck wood. Replace your wood siding with vinyl or aluminum siding, and you won’t have any more woodpecker problems. It’s certainly a major, drastic step, but it’s guaranteed to be effective.

7. Bird netting

Hanging bird netting around your house can prevent the woodpeckers from reaching your siding. Make sure it’s at least three inches away from the side of your house, or they’ll still be able to reach the wood. Also make sure it’s open on the sides so that there’s no risk of the bird getting trapped under it.

8. Play Distress Calls

Like most birds, woodpeckers have distinctive distress calls they use to alert other birds to the presence of a predator. You can play these sounds to scare the birds off. This is one of the more effective ways to repel woodpeckers.


3 main problems that woodpeckers can cause

credit: John Benson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

1. Holes in Your Siding

The first and most obvious problem woodpeckers can cause is holes in your siding and damage to your home. Nesting woodpeckers can excavate large holes in the wood, while hunting woodpeckers will excavate much smaller, but much more numerous holes.

Even a woodpecker that’s only drumming to attract a mate can still damage the wood. These holes can cause structural damage because the expose the wood to the elements, which can weaken it over time. And, of course, it’s just unsightly.

credit: John Benson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

2. Loud Noises

Woodpeckers are loud; no matter the reason for their pecking, they make a racket and it’s enough to drive you and your neighbors crazy. A drumming woodpecker, especially, may keep it up for hours on end.

3. Damage to Trees

If woodpeckers have made themselves at home in your home, there’s a good chance they’ll start looking for food in your trees and your neighbor’s trees. You may begin to notice holes appearing in them. While trees can usually handle these wounds easily, they can sometimes cause serious injury.

The below video shows how quickly the largest North American woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker, can drill a massive hole into a live tree.


Woodpecker FAQ

Why is a woodpecker attacking my house?

As we mentioned above, the woodpecker is either drumming to establish a territory or attract a mate, or it could be nesting or looking for food. Drumming is unlikely to cause damage, although it can be very annoying. Drilling for food or excavating a nest can cause a lot of damage, though.

Does a woodpecker on my house mean I have termites?

Not necessarily. Woodpeckers eat many different species of insect, including termites, but also wood-boring beetles, bees, wasps, and carpenter ants. In addition, the woodpecker may not be feeding at your house at all. First, determine why the woodpecker is there.

If it’s feeding, the holes will be small and irregular, although sometimes they’ll dig out a line rather than a hole as they follow an insect tunnel. If you determine that they’re feeding, you’ll need to call an exterminator to determine if you have termites.

Are woodpeckers bad for houses?

They can be, yes. They can cause extensive damage to the wood siding of your home. Of course, they can also be a form of natural pest control, since they eat insects that can infest your home. So, it depends on what they’re doing. A hunting woodpecker may only cause cosmetic damage, while nesting woodpeckers can create much larger holes.

Does homeowners insurance cover woodpecker damage?

Your homeowners insurance policy will most likely not cover woodpecker damage. It’s definitely worth a phone call to your insurance company to find out for certain though.

Are woodpeckers good to have around?

Generally, yes. Woodpeckers eat lots of insects that are pests to us, including termites, ants, and mosquitoes. They might cause problems if they start pecking your house, but if they’re just hanging around your yard you definitely don’t want to scare them off.

What are woodpeckers afraid of?

Owls and hawks are their natural predators, and so plastic owls or hawks may scare them off. However, this usually only works temporarily. Woodpeckers are intelligent birds, and they’ll eventually figure out that the plastic owls aren’t real.

What does woodpecker damage look like?

Small holes, often in a line, irregularly spaced. Or, if the bird is nesting, one, larger hole.

How do I fix woodpecker damage?

Fill the hole with epoxy or wood putty, and you’ll be good to go.

Can I kill woodpeckers?

No! Killing woodpeckers is illegal, so you’ll need to rely on non-lethal control methods.

What attracts woodpeckers?

Dead tree limbs on the ground can be very attractive to woodpeckers – that wood is full of insects for them to eat. They’re also drawn to bird feeders, as they eat many of the same things other birds do. A good suet feeder like this one will surely attract some woodpeckers. Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are always common at suet feeders, and if you’re lucky you may see a Pileated.


Conclusion

Woodpeckers can cause serious damage, in addition to just being incredibly annoying. Unfortunately, getting rid of woodpeckers is very difficult. It’s illegal to kill a woodpecker, so any lethal method like poison is not an option.

The biggest problem is that woodpeckers are intelligent birds, and so control methods like plastic owls are, at best, a temporary solution. Given time they can learn to tell plastic and real owls apart, and your plastic owls will no longer be an effective deterrent.

Aluminum foil, reflective streamers, and other shiny objects have been found to be among the most reliable and effective methods of controlling woodpeckers. If it scares them off, they’ll stay away. The downside is, they aren’t always scared off by this.

Still, it’s more effective (and very cost effective) than most other methods of controlling woodpeckers. A good way to improve the odds of this working is to play woodpecker distress calls and hang something shiny up outside. The combination of these two methods is almost always effective.


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Hi, my name is Jesse and I'm the guy behind Wildlife Informer. Ever since I was a kid I've loved learning about wildlife. Now I share my knowledge here on this site with you!