Bird Control: Woodpeckers


September 17, 2014

Consider the biology, behavior and management of this protected species. 

Years ago, when my wife and I first moved into our home, I was awakened one morning by a woodpecker “working” on our house. Once I figured out what was happening, I was ready to yell out my window, “You’re messing with the Bird Doctor!” But he was focused on the task at hand. Woodpeckers peck for the following reasons:

  • Gathering food. They peck into trees and wood in search of adult wood-boring insects and their larvae, such as carpenter bees. Woodpeckers have acute hearing and can hear insects and larvae moving under the bark.
  • Building nests. They peck into dead or dying trees to create a site for nesting.
  • Climbing the social ladder. They peck or drum rapidly to establish their territory. Male woodpeckers also drum to attract female mates.

Management methods include:

  • Food removal. Provide pest control for the insects the woodpeckers like to eat. Once the infestation is gone, patch the boreholes left behind or install sheet metal or hardware cloth over them.
  • Wood removal. In extreme cases, you might have to replace the wood siding on the structure and/or install aluminum siding.
  • Deterrent techniques. These include installing decoys of snakes, owls and other predators. Hanging shiny objects such as balloons, pie plates, and metallic colored strips also might work. So can labeled repellent sprays. Appropriately labeled bird gels can be used on trees and wood siding. Some professionals have succeeded simply by spraying water on and around the woodpeckers.
  • Relocation. Install woodpecker roosting/nesting boxes in strategic areas away from the target site.

Aust is president and CEO of Bird Doctor Nationwide and can be reached at



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