Waking up to the sounds of birds is an ideal way to start your day unless said birds are woodpeckers. Although these birds are beautiful to look at, their constant pecking can give you a severe headache after a while.
Besides, their pecking can also cause serious damage to your home and trees unless warded away. If overlooked for too long, more woodpeckers can take up residence in your backyard or house, which will only lead to further property damage and other inconveniences for you.
Here are 7 effective measures to get rid of woodpeckers:
- Eliminate their potential food sources: Most woodpeckers feed almost exclusively on insects. The best way to get rid of them is to check for signs of insect infestation in your yard.
- Offer them a different treat: If you don’t want woodpeckers pecking on your trees and destroying the wood, offer them food as a distraction. Suet cakes work great for these noisy birds.
- Repair all the existing holes: Woodpeckers often prefer to peck on pre-existing holes rather than digging up new ones. If any such holes are located on your property, try filling them up first.
- Fix rotten wood
- Install bird nettings and spikes
- Employ scare tactics (both audio and visual) in your yard
- Other effective household scare tactics include sprinklers and odor repellants
If the woodpecker problem has been nagging you for quite some time, find the solution to it in this article.
Can you kill woodpeckers?
Many of you must be wondering that instead of going through all this trouble, why not simply kill the woodpeckers?
The answer to that, besides basic decency and humanity, lies in the American Constitution. Unlike other household pests and insects, woodpeckers and many other birds are illegal to kill. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
However, in some extreme scenarios, some exceptions are made. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (in rare cases) issue special permits to allow the lethal control of woodpeckers.
However, these issues are rarely made available for homeowners. In fact, they are not issued to pest control companies, either.
Don’t worry; in this article, we will only talk about the methods that might be firm and legal, and humane.
Why might the woodpeckers be on your property?
If a descent of woodpeckers has suddenly started frequenting on your property, it is natural to wonder why they have taken a particular liking to it. There could be multiple reasons behind it; several factors are involved in the woodpeckers choosing a settlement.
We have listed some of them for you below. Take a look:
Possible Food Source:
Contrary to popular myth, woodpeckers do not eat the bark of trees. Instead, they peck on the trees to feast on the insects (bugs, moths, caterpillars, beetles, and so on) hidden underneath.
So, a large number of woodpeckers on your property could be the result of an insect infestation in your yard’s trees.
Woodpeckers nest in old trees or other wooden structures. Therefore, if you happen to live in or close to a wooded area, you can expect to see or hear them near your home.
Moreover, if your house has suffered damage from excavators like carpenter ants or termites before, it is even more likely to attract these birds.
Climate and Geology:
Most woodpecker species do not migrate to warmer regions during winter, which means that you might see them all year round.
Although they live all across the United States, they usually prefer warmer climates and are less typical in the Southwest.
Many studies have proved that woodpeckers are most attracted to houses with grooved wooden siding. They are least drawn to houses that have metallic or vinyl exteriors in lighter colors.
Moreover, they prefer natural, unpainted wood over wood that has been painted and finished, as you would have expected.
If you look around your property and can relate to any of the factors mentioned above, then you know precisely why the woodpeckers find your property appealing.
Signs of woodpecker damage
Woodpeckers peck on various surfaces for different reasons. These include searching for food and communicating with each other. They also drum on metallic or other hard surfaces to claim their territory or to attract a mate.
Of course, their characteristic pecking behavior is the reason why they are classified as pests. Repeated pecking by a woodpecker can cause extensive damage to any surface.
However, other critters also excavate into the wood and damage it; these include termites, carpenter ants, and bees. To get rid of them effectively, you should first tell the difference between the damage done by each of them.
Difference between Woodpecker damage and Termite damage
• Termites do not make any sound while they are excavating.
• Wood infested by a termite is always layered by soil or mud.
• Rather than searching for a food source through the food, termites eat the wood itself.
• Damage done by woodpeckers is always round holes, while termites cause irregular damage.
Difference between Woodpecker and Carpenter Ant damage
• The sound of a woodpecker’s drilling is a noticeable tap-tap-tap instead of the faint rustling in the wall produced by the carpenter ant’s excavation.
• Unlike the woodpeckers, these ants cannot drill into fully-formed wooden structures. They can only excavate in decaying wood or wood that has been water-damaged recently.
• Carpenter ants enter homes searching for sweet or sugary substances similar to their honeydew from aphids. Woodpeckers, on the other hand, are looking for insects, fruits, and nuts.
Difference between Woodpecker and Carpenter Bee damage
• While excavating, the bees make an indistinct buzzing sound instead of the harsh pecking noise emitted by the woodpeckers.
• Like the carpenter ants, carpenter bees also cannot excavate into finished and well-formed wooden structures. On the other hand, the woodpeckers will have no difficulty drilling into new wood and sometimes even metal surfaces.
• The holes formed by carpenter bees are much smaller and deeper than that of the woodpeckers, which are bigger and shallower.
Measures to ward away woodpeckers
Now that you’ve learned to recognize the signs of woodpecker damage, the next step is to ward them away from your property before they manage to create any further problems.
In this section, we will tell you about some of the most efficient ways to get rid of woodpeckers without causing them any real harm.
Eliminate all food sources
If you are noticing woodpeckers in or around your property, the most probable cause of their presence is food. As we have already mentioned above, woodpeckers look for insects under the bark of trees.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is look for insect infestation signs in your backyard. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Large holes in the leaves, particularly in the middle
- Chew marks on the leaves
- Yellow spots on the leaves
- Silver slime trails
- Destroyed seedlings
- Stem damage at the soil level
- Droppings on the leaves
These are the signs that indicate that there is, in fact, an insect infestation in your backyard. While there are many ways of getting rid of these insects, your safest and most efficient choice is to let the professionals handle them.
Offer them other foods to eat
If the woodpeckers are still around after you’ve gotten rid of the insects, give these birds something else to feast on. It might seem contradictory to feed the birds when you want to get rid of them, but doing so has proven efficient in many cases.
You can put out suet. It is a favorite of the woodpeckers, especially during the late fall, winter, and early spring, when the other food choices for them are scarce.
In the beginning, you should put up their feeder close to the tree on which the bird feeds. After a week or so, start moving the feeder a few feet away from your property every day.
By the time summer arrives, you can remove the feeder altogether, and the woodpeckers will be trained to avoid your house or backyard.
Making your own suet cake
If you don’t want to spend your money on buying suet cakes, you can also make them at home using the recipe given below.
- Chicken, butter, or lard (or any animal or vegetable fat)
- Bird seeds
- A muffin tin
- A Microwave
- A small microwave-safe bowl
In the microwave bowl, melt whichever type of fat you have decided to use. Then, transfer the fat into a different bowl, add in as many bird seeds as you like, and fold them in till properly mixed.
Once you’re done mixing, spoon the mixture into the muffin tin and refrigerate it for at least an hour till the mixture has hardened.
You can also add to the mixture nuts, fruits, or berries if you want. If you don’t have a suet feeder, put in a rope or twine in the cakes before they have hardened. Once the cakes are ready, you can hang them from the branches of trees with the rope you’ve added.
Lastly, woodpeckers also love to eat a variety of fruits and berries. You can plant strategic fruit trees and berry bushes far from the perimeter of your property to lure the birds away.
If you are hearing the pecking of woodpeckers on your property for some time but cannot find the source, check the sides of your house. It is because if you don’t have any suitable trees for woodpeckers in your backyard, they are most likely to start pecking there.
Now, if you come across a woodpecker hole in a wall of your house while checking, you must repair it immediately, regardless of the size. This hole can attract several other birds to your property.
Moreover, it will also give other small insects a convenient way to crawl into your house, giving these birds more cause to peck into your house.
You can use wood, caulk, or expandable foam to repair the hole, depending on its depth and width. Once plugged, coat it with a layer of woodpecker deterrent paint.
Using simple oil-based paint or paint made with polyurethane will also help keep out insects, reducing the number of woodpeckers attracted to your yard.
Note: If you find a fairly large hole, remember to check for a bird inside it before filling it up.
Fix Rotten Wood
As we have already mentioned before, woodpeckers are attracted to rotten and unfinished wooden structures instead of finished ones.
Therefore, fixing all the wooden repairs in and around your house can certainly act as a preventative measure against them. The sidings of your home should be checked thoroughly for any sign of rotting or decaying.
If your backyard has a dead tree lying as a seating place for you and your family, it is time to get it removed. Old and dead trees are easy to peck into and act as a bonus for these birds.
Bird Spikes and Netting
When the woodpeckers are not looking for food in the trees and walls of your house, they will most likely be perched conveniently high points on your property.
If you eliminate these roosting sites, these birds might leave your place for a more inviting and comfortable settlement.
Bird spikes (usually made of plastic or metal) are easily available in bird supply stores. All you need to do is place them on the roof, fences, branches, eaves, windows, or anywhere else that seems like a perching spot to you.
These birds are smart enough to avoid spiked perching grounds.
Bird netting is another preventative method that has proven efficient in most cases. Besides protecting the trees, it can also be used on eaves and top of buildings.
In both cases, the netting should be at least ¾” thick. Also, there should be a gap of at least a few inches between the netting and the tree/building.
Backyard Scare Tactics
Woodpeckers are always on their guard for any sort of danger, particularly large predatory birds, which makes it easy to scare them away with both visual and audible stimuli.
The tools we are about to mention in this section are both affordable and easily available in stores and online. So, all you have to do is put them up around your property to deter the woodpeckers from feeding there.
However, keep in mind that these birds might get used to your tactics after a time. They might also realize that there is no real threat and start coming back.
Therefore, you need to switch between them every once in a while until the birds are trained to stay away from your property.
There are several audio tactics you can use that are efficient at fending off woodpeckers. Let’s check them out:
Distress Calls: Recorded animal calls are the best audio tactics you can use to scare woodpeckers away. These birds are especially terrified by feral cats, foxes, coyotes, and hawks, which are their major predators in the wild. You can get the recorded animal calls both online or in the form of CDs.
Then, using any speaker you own, play these calls from your house to prevent woodpeckers from coming near your property. However, before you decide to play the recorded animal calls, make sure the volume isn’t loud enough to disturb your neighbors.
Ultrasonic Repellent: Putting up an ultrasonic repellent is another great tactic. These repellents emit a high-frequency noise that isn’t detectable by the human ear, but the birds can find it irritating and difficult to get used to.
You can also get a motion-activated ultrasonic repellent, which will go off as soon as there are any birds in its vicinity, causing them to fly away.
Flash Tape: Made of Mylar, a reflective material reflecting light, the flash tapes can act as an effective visual deterrent for woodpeckers. You can hang the tape around your house, on trees, and leaves.
Since they are in the wind, the flash tapes will bounce the light reflected on them in different directions. It will both distract and scare the birds when they are flying or trying to feed.
The ribbons of the tapes might also create a slight noise as they flap together, adding to their success as a scare tactic.
Fake Birds: As we discussed earlier, woodpeckers are always on their guard against a predatory bird and will immediately see them from far away.
However, they aren’t smart enough to identify the threat as real or fake. All you have to do is put up plastic or ceramic replicas of birds like owls or hawks on the branches of your trees.
The woodpeckers will most likely stay away since they will perceive your property to be that bird’s territory.
You can also opt for fake mechanical birds that move their heads and produce accurate distress calls, which can even scare these birds off for good.
Scarecrows: Regardless of what some people might think, scarecrows aren’t only for farms. A scarecrow is essentially just a fake human made up of straw or cotton that is stuffed inside its clothing.
It will be just as efficient as the fake birds, that is, to make the woodpeckers avoid your property.
Household Scare Tactics
If the woodpecker on your property has only been there for less than a week, you can easily scare them away with the following simple, mostly DIY tactics:
If you happen to have any spare balloons in your house, you can easily use them to prevent woodpeckers from entering your property. Balloons sway in the wind and resemble the shape of a human head or a bird, like an owl.
All you need to do is blow up the balloon and tie it to the beams of your house or tree branches. It will scare away any bird that might have wandered in your yard to roost or look for food.
Other Reflective Objects
If you don’t have any reflective tape, don’t worry. Many other household items can easily be tied to strings and hung in your yard to scare these birds away.
Aluminum foil, CDs, or small mirrors are all great choices for making your own reflective object. The more objects you have, the more birds you can ward away.
Using these, you could also create a sort of obstacle course which these birds will surely avoid instead of going through to reach your trees.
Floodlights and Garden Sprinklers
If you have sprinklers and floodlights in your garden, you can use them effectively to your advantage. You can begin by adding motion sensors to them (which isn’t too costly), which will keep these pesky birds at bay.
If a woodpecker gets too close to your backyard, it will get assaulted by light and water, which might scare them away for a longer period.
Using odor repellents is another efficient tactic to get rid of woodpeckers. Many distinct odors are known to repel these birds. However, before using any of the repellents mentioned below, remember that you will have to breathe them too.
Also, you might need to repeat these processes every day for at least a month, or the birds will keep returning.
Garlic: To make a garlic repellent for the woodpeckers, peel and crush a clove of garlic. Then, mix the garlic with a cup of olive oil and refrigerate it for five days to thoroughly blend the ingredients.
Now, transfer the mixture into a spray bottle and sprinkle it on the plants, trees, bushes, and all the areas where the woodpeckers like to peck.
Peppermint Oil: The strong odor of peppermint essential oil is very repulsive for woodpeckers. You can prepare the peppermint spray by mixing it with either water or carrier oil.
Mix 4-5 drops of peppermint essential oil with two cups of whichever ingredient you’ve chosen. Then, transfer this mixture to a spray bottle and sprinkle it in all the places you think woodpeckers might roost in.
When to call a professional?
If all the methods mentioned in the previous section haven’t worked, you need to call professional extermination or pest control company to do the job for you.
Instead of trying to purchase various products for seemingly unreliable methods in your case, a pest control expert will get straight to the root of the infestation.
The investment might seem too much at the time but will end up saving you a great amount of money in the long run.
A professional pest control company will tackle the infestation in the following ways:
• Firstly, they will reduce the insect population of your backyard. They will also seal any woodpecker holes on your property to prevent more woodpeckers from flocking around your property.
• They will identify the species that have flocked in your backyard and create more targeted solutions.
• The experts will also educate and explain the whole process to you along the way, which will help you if any such critters infest your house in the future.
• Moreover, they can also employ certain methods that are only safe for a trained technician to perform, such as bird removal through trapping.
Frequently asked questions
What are some common and effective woodpecker deterrents?
In most cases, Mylar Tape has emerged as an undefeated, efficient deterrent against woodpeckers. Helium balloons, windsocks, and pinwheels are also known to be quite effective against these critters.
Can woodpeckers attack humans?
No, a woodpecker will not attack you. These birds, although stubborn, are scared of humans. If you threaten their nest to make them go away, woodpeckers might bluff an attack by flying quite fiercely toward you. Although this can be scary and intimidating, it is highly unlikely that the bird will actually try to hurt you.
Where do woodpeckers normally live?
Woodpeckers live in trees of both big forests and small wooded areas. The trees are convenient for these birds as they provide shelter, food (as they contain insects under their barks) and can also serve as a mode of communication for them.
Conclusion: How to get rid of Woodpeckers?
As adorable as woodpeckers can be, when they’ve gotten used to pecking around your property, it can be pretty annoying.
And if you want to prevent the damage they can cause to your house or the trees in your yard, you must take measures to deter them. While trying to get rid of these birds, keep in mind that they’re protected birds that shouldn’t be harmed.
Therefore, you should go for cruelty-free deterrent methods to drive them away from your property.
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