Our house is being attached by woodpeckers
3 December 2005
A. While doing research for this question I ran across some information that I think you need to know. It turns out that our woodpecker friends will peck on not only wood but will settle for fake wood, such as Masonite®, or even aluminum or steel siding , gutters or downspouts, creating-- I don’t have to tell you-- an awful racket with some siding damage. They apparently peck for different reasons depending upon what they are up to at the moment. Sometimes they’ll drum for the mere sake of drumming or for the sake of finding a mate or build a nest or they’re looking for lunch.
In 2001, Dr. Sandra Vehrencamp, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, undertook a study of these behaviors and fortunately for us she was partially funded by Bird-X, a company whose interest in birds like woodpeckers isn’t quite as scientific as Dr. Vehrencamp’s. Bird-X manufactures and markets the means and methods of discouraging those woodpeckers from damaging the exterior of your house and rattling your peace. I know the company for their products for pigeon control on bui ldings and monuments.
Some of the good doctor’s research encourages us to run outside at the first sound of the woodpeckers pecking so that we might “catch some exciting territorial or breeding behaviors”. She studied over 1300 woodpecker calls and found damage in over 27 per cent of the dwellings. For our purposes the trip outside will be to identify the exact location of the attack and to formulate a plan of repair and future prevention. Normally, woodpeckers attack soft wood siding such as cedar shingles, shakes or clapbo ards or the like. They will sometimes hop from spot to spot or, if they concentrate on one location, they may be in the nest building business or if you have carpenter bees they are looking for them-- a woodpecker culinary favorite. In that case, rese archers suggest you get rid of the bees and cover the holes with flashing or sheet metal that can be painted to blend in the with the siding color.
One class of preventative measures are called tactile deterrents such as Tanglefoot Pest Control, Roost-No-More and Bird Stop. Dr. Vehrencamp doesn’t like these because they can hurt the bird and discolor the siding.
Next are visual deterrents such as a shiny foil tape called Irri-Tape. But I like Terror Eyes the best. These you suspend from bouncy springs and are lenticular, halographic eyes that follow the bird in any direction, spooking the bird and, I imagine, a nyone else who doesn’t know what they are.
Next are the sound deterrents. These are recordings of the screeching of the Sharp-skinned Hawk that will scare the feathers off the woodpecker and I’m sure will bother you, too. The loudspeaker can be attached to a motion detector so they will only sc ream when disturbed. That’s reassuring.
Tying nylon netting on the side of the house will deter woodpeckers from landing on the wood and placing suet feeders away from the building are also listed as a method of luring them away from the house. The last suggestion listed under “other preventa tive measures” on the Cornell Lab of Orntithology web site includes dulling the drumming sound by placing padding behind the area where the bird is drumming to muffle the sound. If that’s not conceding defeat, I don’t know what is.
The woodpecker preventative web site begins by saying that the best way to keep woodpeckers from your house is to go after them at the first sound of pecking and to repair any and all damage or evidence that they’ve been there and to keep up the vigilanc e for a good while after you think they’ve gone, just in case. It’s the best you can do.