Woodpeckers are beautiful birds that are an important part of our ecosystem. Yet they can pose big problems for homeowners. Not only is their constant pecking loud and irritating, it can also damage your home, garage, and fences as well as trees located on your property.
Physical Characteristics Of a Woodpecker
- Black, red, white, or yellow, many with patches of color on their head or neck
- Range in size from 2.5”-20”
- Most species have two toes on each side of their feet, which help them grip branches
- Longer talons than those of most small birds
- Found primarily in wooded areas, but may also be spotted in parks, orchards, or suburban areas with trees
- Generally have larger bills than other birds their size
- Short bursts of fast, repetitive tapping noises; up to 20 times per second
- Can be found throughout North America and around the world
So what can you do if woodpeckers frequent your yard? Luckily, using the right preventative measures make removing them easy. They allow you to remove woodpeckers safely and without causing them any harm.
Before removing woodpeckers from your property, it is important to understand who is at risk of damage and why woodpeckers are there in the first place.
- Woodpeckers peck to create nesting spaces, communicate with other birds, forage for insects, and attract mates.
- Their long, sticky tongues help them catch insects.
- They peck up to 12,000 times per day.
- They are found on every continent, except Australia and Antarctica.
- Insects are their primarily diet, but they may also eat fruits and nuts.
- Their skulls are designed to absorb the impact of repeated taps against wood.
Woodpeckers live in a variety of habitats around the world. These include scrublands, savannahs, and rainforests. Woodpeckers are found in the largest quantities in wooded areas.
The birds like wooded areas because of the ample number of trees. Woodpeckers use trees for food and shelter. They drill holes in these trees to serve as burrows and to eat the insects living inside.
Woodpeckers eat a wide variety of different foods. While insects are their absolute favorite, they also regularly consume sap, bark, nuts, and seeds. During certain parts of the year, woodpeckers also eat fruits, particularly apples and oranges.
Woodpeckers living near humans often substitute trees for houses. They drill into the wooden parts of these structures in search of food. The insects they are hunting include termites, ants, and grubs.
If you are struggling with a woodpecker problem, there is a good chance the root cause is an insect infestation.
Most species of woodpeckers do not migrate. They live in the same area year round, making them very territorial.
The nesting and mating season for woodpeckers generally runs from April to June in much of the United States. Because they become even more protective and aggressive during this time, it’s best to plan your removal efforts before or after these dates.
Disease is yet another reason to quickly remove woodpeckers from your property. The most common disease they carry is Histomlasmosis.
A respiratory disease, Histomlasmosis stems from a fungus on bird droppings. Most people infected by the disease develop respiratory infections.
Other diseases woodpeckers can transmit to humans include the West Nile virus, E. coli, and salmonella. All of these diseases have serious symptoms and can even death if left untreated.
Fortunately, woodpeckers rarely spread disease to humans. In fact, it is only their feces that can spread disease. The bird itself is harmless in this sense.
Get Rid of Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers are known to cause serious damages to homes, garages, fences, and other structures. The damage stems from their drilling and burrowing in search of food and shelter.
Most woodpecker damage is limited to wooden structures. The damage is usually caused by only one or two birds each year. The bulk of the drilling and pecking is done from February to June (corresponding with the above mentioned breeding season).
Because woodpeckers often breed during the late winter and early spring, they tend to cause the most extensive damage to unoccupied vacation homes. The birds drill into these structures unnoticed until the owners visit again during late spring or summer.
It is far easier to prevent woodpeckers in the first place than attempt to remove them once they have moved into your home.
Woodpecker prevention starts with eliminating their food source. Because most woodpeckers peck homes to reach insects, an insect-free home goes a long way to control this pest.
Bees, termites, and ants are the three most common pests that attract woodpeckers to wooden houses. Get rid of these three pests to greatly reduce the chances that a woodpecker will drill into your home.
Unlike other common household pests, it’s illegal to kill woodpeckers. These birds, along with many others, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
In certain extreme scenarios, special permits are issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing the lethal control of woodpeckers. These permits are almost never issued to homeowners.
So what do you do when you hear the constant tapping sound that signifies your home is now the feeding grounds of a woodpecker?
It starts with scaring the birds away. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology encourages you to begin your removal and prevention efforts as soon as you hear the first tap. They go on to state that you should repair any damage immediately to prevent other woodpeckers from using the same holes.
Once you have scared the birds away, it’s time to check for an insect infestation. As we mentioned above, you must get this issue under control before investigating other woodpecker deterrents.
There are three main deterrents you can use to get rid of woodpeckers and keep them gone for good. These include tactile, sound, and visual deterrents. Combining all three is usually the most effective plan of attack.
They affect birds physically. Include sticky repellents and deterrent coating sprays. Contain scents that warn woodpeckers away.
They scare birds with warning sounds. Electronic distress call systems are most effective. These produce the distress call of a woodpecker followed by the call of a predator.
- Interval Plays the sound recording at random intervals.
- Motion Plays the sound recording when motion is detected (also plays when other animals/people are nearby).
Tip: We like the BirdXPeller PRO Electronic Bird Repeller.
They scare birds with visual features. Aluminum foil is a cheap DIY example. High-quality options include windsocks, handheld windmills, plastic owls, and balloons.
- Stationary The visual deterrent doesn’t move. Woodpeckers grow used to these.
- Moving The visual deterrent moves, reducing the likelihood woodpeckers grow used to them. An example is a plastic owl on a spring.
Unfortunately, woodpeckers are crafty creatures. They quickly become acclimated to even the very best deterrents, including electronic distress systems.
If this happens with your home, your best bet is to install bird netting around desirable areas. Bird netting prevents woodpeckers and other birds from reaching the wooden areas of your home in the first place. Over time, they all begin to look elsewhere for food and shelter. Properly installed netting also protects your home from other similarly-sized pests.
As we mentioned above, it is illegal to use poison to control woodpeckers. However, many tactile deterrents work in a similar way. They coat the wooden areas of your home with non-lethal substances that woodpeckers do not like. These usually either smell or taste bad to the bird.
Other tactile deterrents give the surface a coating that causes it to produce an unusual noise that warns woodpeckers away.
Professional Woodpecker Removal
Most homeowners should be able to get rid of woodpeckers themselves by putting in a little time and legwork. For those that can’t, it is time to hire a bird control professional to help you deal with the problem.
What to Expect
Most home pest control companies provide bird control support. Depending on the nature of your problem, it might be a smarter idea to hire a professional that specializes in woodpecker removal.
The first thing an expert will do is inspect your home. They will identify where and why woodpeckers are causing damage. If the root of the problem is an insect infestation, they will safely exterminate these insects first.
The next step is to keep the woodpeckers away. You can expect your bird control professional to use one of two methods.
The first method includes the same non-lethal deterrents discussed above. Generally, they will use a combination of visual and gustatory (taste) products. A bird control professional has access to the best woodpecker repellents possible.
The second, and much less common, method utilizes lethal means. Your bird removal professional will recommend this only if absolutely essential. Even then, they must qualify for a federal kill permit before starting the extermination.
The services of a bird control expert will cost far more than getting rid of woodpeckers yourself.
Because woodpeckers cannot be killed as a first line of pest control action, the price for their removal is somewhat steeper than other pests. The reason is that long-term methods must be used. Companies often rent out mechanical deterrents to homeowners for several months.
In other words, you make monthly payments for the best deterrents rather than a one-time down payment for extermination. These payments can quickly add up to several hundred dollars.
Find the Best Pro
It is essential you find the best bird control pro to remove woodpeckers from your property. The best of the best have experience with both birds and insects. After the birds are removed and deterrents are in place, it is essential the professional you use has the skills to eliminate the potential underlying insect infestation. Otherwise the woodpeckers will be back before you know it.
Your Woodpecker-Free Home
The rapid tapping sound of a woodpecker is annoying to say the least. Worse still, these birds can cause serious damage to your home and other wooden structures.
Fortunately, woodpecker removal is far easier than many other types of pest removal. Follow the advice outlined above and your home will be woodpecker-free in no time at all.