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How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers may be nice to look at, but they can also cause damage to your home and trees. Learn how to get rid of woodpeckers by reading this guide.

Woodpecker on tree iStock

Few things interrupt the beauty of a warm spring morning like the sound of a woodpecker drilling into your home. Though the birds themselves are often lovely to look at, the damage they cause to buildings and trees is not. In fact, woodpeckers can do thousands of dollars of damage if they make nests in the exterior of your home. We’ll show you how to safely get rid of woodpeckers and keep them away from your property without harming them.

Signs of Woodpecker Damage

Woodpeckers perform their characteristic pecking behavior for two reasons: to get food and to communicate with other birds. Their hard, sharp beaks can drill into wood in order to retrieve any juicy insects inside. They also drum their beaks against hard surfaces to communicate with each other, mostly to mark territory or engage in courting behavior.

Of course, this fascinating behavior also makes them pests. Repeated drumming from a woodpecker’s bill can damage a variety of surfaces. They can drill holes in trees, wooden structures, and even stucco siding.

Characteristic woodpecker damage often looks like a series of small, deep holes in a horizontal or vertical line. Alternatively, there may be larger nesting holes. You’ll usually know the damage comes from woodpeckers rather than insects based on the accompanying noise and the regularity of the holes.

Although woodpeckers won’t find food or shelter in structures like metal chimneys or gutters, they may find that drumming on these produces a much louder sound — the better to claim their territory with. This probably won’t do much overall damage to your home, but it’ll give you a headache in short order.

As with all bird pests, you don’t want to kill woodpeckers. They’re important parts of the ecosystem, and they’re beautiful and interesting birds. Additionally, in the US, they’re protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 (even though they don’t migrate). Instead of eliminating them, you want to direct their focus away from your home and landscaping.

Three Ways to Get Rid of Woodpeckers

Remove and Change the Food Source

Insects are woodpeckers’ primary food source, so if your home or yard has an infestation, it could look like a free buffet. Bees, ants, and termites are all common reasons for woodpeckers to target a home, so check for signs of infestations including hives, rotting wood, or dead insects. Treat for insects yourself or call an exterminator. A pest control company will be happy to help you root out the problem.

If you’re still having problems after you’ve removed this food source, give the woodpeckers something else to eat. These birds like to eat suet, a product made from cow fat, particularly in the late fall, winter, and early spring when other food is scarce. You can set up a bird feeder near where the woodpeckers are currently feeding to attract them to a different meal. After a day or so, begin gradually moving the feeder away from your home by a few feet each day. You can remove the feeder completely once summer arrives and the birds are trained to avoid your home.

Finally, woodpeckers do eat fruits and berries as well, so you can plant fruit trees and bushes around the perimeter of your yard, well away from your house, to divert the birds’ attention from your home.

Frighten Woodpeckers Away

Deterrents are objects or products that keep pests away from your home, so consider investing in some woodpecker deterrents. Various anecdotal sources recommend hanging or placing objects that reflect light, move, or make a sound. You might set up pinwheels or hang old CDs or wind chimes.

You can also purchase a decoy owl to make it appear as though a predator is in the area. However, many homeowners report that these methods are only effective for a short time. The woodpeckers are smart enough to realize that there is no real threat and return after a few days.

Reflective “scare” tape has a better track record than most other woodpecker deterrents. You will need to place long strips of this tape dangling in front of areas of woodpecker damage. As it blows in the breeze, its extremely reflective, shiny surface will irritate the birds’ eyes and keep them away. However, keep in mind that this tape will deteriorate or detach over time, and it may not work without wind present.

Prevent Woodpeckers from Returning

For a more permanent solution, bird netting is the only product that reliably keeps woodpeckers away. A mesh size of one inch or smaller, hung at least three inches away from the surface in question, will physically prevent the woodpecker from accessing the area. Netting can also be used to protect trees. It can be time-consuming to install properly, but it’s usually less noticeable than reflective tape.

Another preventative step you can take is to hire a pest control company to eliminate any insects that may attract woodpeckers back to your home. We recommend getting quotes from multiple companies so you can find the best pest control provider for your needs.

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