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Nebline Newsletter Article

Woodpeckers Come a Knockin'
This article was submitted by Soni Cochran, Extension Associate, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County. The article appeared in the Nebline Newsletter February 1997. Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service "Backyard Bird Problems"

Woodpecker on TreeEach year thousands of homeowners put out suet feeders to attract woodpeckers. These handsome birds reward us by consuming millions of noxious insects, including carpenter ants and carpenter bees.

While it's rare, an occasional woodpecker may single out a house for drumming, or worse, for a nest or dining site.

Each spring, when males set up territories and attract their mates, these woodpeckers make their presence known by "drumming." Normally they pick a resonant dead tree trunk. As more homeowners remove dead trees, woodpeckers may turn to metal gutters, house siding and television antennas.

While drumming may be aggravating, it usually doesn't physically damage your house. You can eliminate the drumming noise by deadening the resonant area. Fill the hollow space with caulk. 

Then distract the bird from the drumming site by using scare techniques: balloons, a child's pinwheel, flash tape, and strings of shiny, noisy tin can lids, wind chimes and/or pulsating water sprinklers. 

If that doesn't work, create a physical barrier by screening the drumming site with hardware cloth, sheet metal or nylon "bird netting."

You might encourage the bird to leave altogether by creating an alternative drumming site nearby (but away from your bedroom window). 

Here's how to make a drum: Fasten two overlapping boards, the back board firmly secured and the front (covered with metal sheeting) nailed to it at only one end. 

Serious structural damage occurs when woodpeckers drill holes in unpainted, untreated plywood and cedar siding, window frames and roofing. While no one knows for sure what attracts a woodpecker to a house, your first step in eliminating the problem is to check for signs of insect infestationócarpenter ants, carpenter bees and cluster flies. 

Woodpecker Damage to Home - Click on photo to learn much more

Above: Woodpecker nesting/roosting attempts on cedar clapboards.
For more photos and resources, see: Woodpeckers: Damage, Prevention & Control
Photo posted with permission from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

You may want to consult with a licensed pest control operator on how to remove the insects and eliminate future infestations. It may be as simple as caulking their tunnels and painting with exterior latex. 

If you can't find any insects, try "scare" techniques. If you have a bird feeder that attracts woodpeckers, you might think removing your feeder will cause the bird to leave. Just the opposite may be true. Keeping a feeder full of suet may encourage the birds not to look at your siding for food. 

If you have dead trees in your yard, you might think removing them (and the insects they harbor) will solve woodpecker problems. Again, the opposite may be true. Cutting down dead and decaying trees deprives these birds of nesting, drumming and food sites, and may force them to take a look at your house. Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service "Backyard Bird Problems"

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