of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
Woodpeckers are 17 to 40 cm (7 to 15 inches) long, have
short legs, sharp-clawed toes and stiff tails. Most woodpeckers
feed on wood-boring insects, insects on trees and the ground,
vegetable matter, berries or tree sap. The northern flicker (Colaptes
auratus) is responsible for most woodpecker damage to homes
in the Northeast. It is identified in flight by a yellow or
salmon tint under the wings and tail feathers. Flickers have
black spots on a tannish-white breast and belly. Males have
a black or red mustache extending from the gape of the beak
to below the eyes. The hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) and
downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) also occasionally
Woodpeckers hammer on the sides of houses and other buildings
to attract mates, to establish and/or defend a territory, to
excavate nesting or roosting sites, and to search for insects.
Wooden shingles, cedar or redwood siding, metal or plastic
guttering, television antennas and light posts are selected
as drumming sites because these materials produce loud sounds.
Woodpeckers frequently damage cedar, rough pine and redwood
siding and some synthetic stucco exterior finishing. Plywood
and Masonite are less frequently damaged.
Woodpecker damage can be prevented or eliminated with
several techniques including visual repellents, loud noises,
exclusion and alternate construction materials. It is important
to take immediate action to reduce damage, as woodpeckers are
not easily driven from their territories or pecking sites once
they have become established.
- Large holes serve as visual attractants to woodpeckers
and should be promptly repaired. Cover the holes with aluminum
flashing, tin can tops or metal sheathing, and paint them to
match the siding. If damage occurs near areas that provide
perch sites, eliminate these sites with metal flashing or other
materials. If a single board on the house is serving as a toe
hold, heavy fishing line or stainless steel wire can be tightly
stretched approximately 2 inches outward across the landing
- Hawk silhouette mobiles and 18 cm (7-1/2 inch) diameter
shaving or cosmetic mirrors that enlarge the image seem to
be successful frightening devices. Hawk mobiles with a wing
span of about 55 cm (22 inches) and a length of 27 cm (11 inches)
can be constructed from cardboard, half-inch Styrofoam or quarter-inch
plywood. Paint the mobiles black or another dark color. Hang
two hawk mobiles from the eaves near the damaged area with
heavy fishing line. On each side of the house where damage
occurs, one or two shaving mirrors attached flat to the wood
with the enlarging lens outward will frighten woodpeckers.
Alternatively, try placing black plastic strips (cut from 4-
or 6-mil plastic), 25 to 40 mm (1 to 1-1/2 inches) wide and
approximately 3/4 m (2 to 3 feet) long, pinwheels with reflective
vanes, or aluminum pie tins (preferably 30 cm (12 inches) in
diameter) near the damaged area to frighten woodpeckers. Allow
the wind to blow the strips, pinwheels and pie tins freely.
Owl effigies generally are unsuccessful for frightening woodpeckers.
Where woodpeckers are persistent, use two or more of the above
frightening devices simultaneously.
- Some woodpeckers are frightened away with persistent
loud noises such as banging pots and pans together, firing
toy cap guns or yelling. Other woodpeckers are discouraged
by deadening the sound-producing area by filling the hollow
space behind the wood.
- Woodpeckers can be kept from under eaves by attaching
hardware cloth or plastic netting to the eaves, angling it
back to the siding below the damaged area, and fastening it
securely. Alternately, fasten the netting under the eaves,
stretch down the side of the house 7.5 cm (3 inches) from the
siding, and securely attach close to the ground.
- Woodpeckers occasionally damage houses to obtain insects
in the wood. Insecticides or wood preservatives may deter woodpeckers
by killing the insects.
- Few chemicals that have objectionable
tastes and odors are effective for repelling woodpeckers
and none are currently
registered for that use. Sticky bird repellents (Tanglefoot® or
Roost-No-More®) applied to siding and other areas may discourage
woodpeckers because they create a tacky footing. However, some
of the sticky bird repellents stain wood in hot weather. Test
repellents on a small, out-of-sight area before applying extensively.
- All North American woodpeckers are primarily cavity
nesters which excavate their own cavities, but some species
occasionally use existing cavities or nest boxes. Placing cavity-type
nest boxes on buildings in the vicinity of northern flicker
damage has shown some success. Nest boxes are worth trying
where other methods have failed. Nesting woodpeckers defend
their territories and keep other woodpeckers away. Construct
nest boxes from wood with a 6.5 cm (2 1/2-inch) diameter entrance
hole 40 to 50 cm (16 to 20 inches) above the floor. Inside
dimensions should be about 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 inches), and the
total height should be between 56 and 65 cm (22 to 26 inches).
A front-sloping, hinged roof will shed rain and provide easy
access. Fill the box with sawdust to entice the bird to remove
the sawdust to the desired level. By removing the sawdust,
the bird is fooled into constructing its own nest.
Adapted from the Colorado
State University Cooperative Extension, 1999
are poisonous! Read and follow all safety precautions on labels.
Handle carefully and store in original containers out of reach
of children, pets or livestock. Dispose of empty containers
immediately, in a safe manner and place. Pesticides should never
be stored with foods or in areas where people eat.
When trade names are used for identification, no product endorsement
is implied, nor is discrimination intended against similar materials.
Be sure that the pesticide you intend to use is registered for
the state of use.
The user of this information assumes all risk for personal injury
or property damage.
information, call the URI CE Gardening and Food Safety Hotline
at 1-800-448-1011 or (401)874-2929 from outside Rhode Island;
Monday-Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm.
of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provides equal program