Who Is That Pecking at My Door? The Strange Behavior of Woodpeckers These Days
Of the 21 or so woodpecker species in the United States four are common to our Hudson Valley backyards. The red bellied woodpecker whose head is redder than his belly, hairy and downy which look alike except hairy woodpeckers have longer beaks and are slightly larger. The last common member of the woodpecker clan is the northern flicker. Woodpeckers are often welcome at backyard feeding stations where their antics delight young and old alike. Woodpeckers are opportunists in their eating habits. They survive on tree nuts, seeds and suet. Placing a suet feeder at your feeding station almost insures a welcome chant from the woodpeckers in the neighborhood.
However as their name suggests they do peck on wood. They probe dead trees, fence posts and even your house. A growing problem locally is complaints from home owners about large gaping holes in cedar siding or any wood covering the sides of houses. The reasons behind this new phenomenon vary but include the following. Habitat destruction, woodpeckers need dead trees in which to nest and search for food. New home construction, urban sprawl and logging contribute to habitat destruction. Woodpeckers are then forced into populated areas to continue doing what they do naturally.
Wood peckers rhythmic rapping repetitions are called drumming. Preferring cedar siding they drum to establish territories during mating season. It is the male that destroys your siding. A northern flicker has for the past three springs chosen the metal flashing on my chimney to announce to the ladies his intentions. Amusing yes but not at five in the morning! Wood peckers are also searching for food when they drum.
Therefore the first line of defense is to have your siding inspected for insect damage. Wood peckers are adept at listening for insects munching on your wood. An obscure but reasonable cause may be a clock hanging on a wall. The ticking of the clock sounds like an insect to the wood pecker.
As to stopping these red bellied Bob the Builders there a few options. First is to caulk and repair damage right away. Bird netting is very effective as it presents a barrier the bird won’t cross. If the bird moves to an unprotected spot simply move the netting. ¼ inch hardware cloth provides a more durable barrier as well as aluminum flashing. Aluminum flashing can be painted to match the stain of your siding. Sooner or later the wood pecker gives up.
Reflective holographic tape is another effective repellent. The thin strips of tape shimmer when agitated by a slight breeze. This sudden “action” scares away the wood pecker. These tapes are available in a roll or precut with brackets from which to hang them.
Finally borrowing from the nursery rhymes is the “Little Miss Muffet” method. Available on line is an activated by the wood peckers’ motions. A spider like object is then lowered down on a line to scare away the wood pecker. High tech comes to wood pecker deterrence!
Wood pecker are amazing acrobats with whimsical calls and fluttering flight patterns. They bring beauty and animation to backyards feeding stations. But they can cause significant damage to wood siding. Stopping damage and repairing damage as soon as discovered are the best bets to limiting or stopping their destructive behavior.