You are trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning or trying to relax in your own backyard when you hear that dreaded sound: the rat-a-tat-tat of the woodpecker hammering holes into the siding or your house or the trees on your property. You cringe because you know all too well once that sound starts it isn’t going to let up for some time, and it is nearly impossible to ignore as it echoes in your ears.
Woodpeckers are at once beautiful birds that anyone with a feeder welcomes and the kind of creature that can drive a person out of their mind after about two minutes of making noise. The destruction they can cause is untold. People with persistent woodpecker problems lose the health of their trees and sometimes whole sections of siding; the woodpeckers drill holes into these surfaces looking for food and end up making entryways for insect infestations and moisture damage.
Thankfully there is a wide range of products you can try if you are determined to chase off these birds from your yard altogether. Better yet, birdwatchers may be able to control woodpecker activity enough that they stick around to be enjoyed but stop the incessant pecking. The most common woodpecker deterrents are:
- Reflective strips to frighten woodpeckers
- False predators, like plastic owls and eye balloons
- Sound deterrents
- Sticky repellents such as bird glue
- Deterrent spray that changes the feel and smell of the surface being pecked
Scaring Woodpeckers Away
One of the more effective means of deterring woodpeckers is reflective strips. Woodpeckers are scared off by the flashing light that bounces off reflective surfaces. A general bird deflector, commonly used on high voltage power lines to keep birds safe, may work. Better yet, there are a variety of reflective windsocks and windmills that stay in motion with the slightest movement of the air, acting as a sort of living scarecrow for woodpeckers. The simplest reflective woodpecker deterrent is simply long strips of mylar streamers attached to the surface you are trying to protect.
Woodpeckers and other birds aren’t too fond of being watched by predators, and you can recreate this effect by hanging eye balloons. Eye balloons are round ornaments that make it seem as though a pair of eyes are staring at the woodpecker no matter where it flies. Since birds will eventually figure out it is a trick, these deterrents need to be moved every few days to keep the woodpeckers fooled; the same advice applies to plastic owls or any other fake predator.
Sonic deterrents are usually bird specific since they use the natural warning call and predator sounds of a particular bird breed. Woodpecker deterrents using sound will send out the woodpecker distress call followed by the sound of a hawk. This method uses the bird’s natural instincts against him and guide him away from your property in a hurry. You can choose a sonic device that releases a constant warning call or install a motion-sensitive mechanism that kicks in whenever a bird flies by. Other do-it-yourselfers may want to buy a CD or audio file with this sound pattern and play it through their own outdoor speakers.
Making Their Feeding Ground Less Appealing
Bird glue is sometimes utilized for stubborn bird problems, but there is a word of caution about using such products. If applied too heavily they trap the bird, who dies a rather miserable death stuck to the side of your tree or house. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology discourages the use of sticky repellents because they are potentially harmful to woodpeckers and other birds when it gets caught up in their feathers. They urge homeowners to consider one of the many other effective deterrent options available.
Woodpecker deterrent spray is typically made of a non-toxic vinyl coating. You spray the area where the birds are making holes, and they should find the surface undesirable due to its new taste and smell the next time they return. Sprays are manufactured primarily for use on trees. A similar paint additive can be mixed in with paint for situations where the woodpeckers are causing problems for your house or outbuildings.
Once you have chased off the woodpecker or while you are managing the problem, make sure to seal up and repaint any remaining holes. Holes left by one woodpecker is like a welcome mat rolled out to others. Adams Pest Control recommends filling some of the holes with a putty deterrent, similar to the spray and pain mentioned above, just in case the woodpecker starts nosing around again.
Restoring Peace and Quiet to Your Property
You don’t have to live with the incessant noise or property damage brought on by woodpeckers. If you have a feeder, consider removing the suet from your mixture, giving woodpeckers no reason to return if there are neither bug hunting spots or seed for them to eat. Remember that woodpeckers can be beneficial to trees by helping to control insect populations; this is part of the reason woodpeckers are protected birds, and it is illegal to kill them without a license. You need to be prepared for an uptick in tree infestations if the birds do decide to leave.
If you are lucky you may be able to strike a balance between seeing the beautiful plumage of the woodpecker at your feeder without ever having to deal with their noise or destruction again. In the end, it is all a matter of finding the right woodpecker deterrent.
Additional Woodpecker Repellent Resources:
- Woodpecker Prevention and Control Measures – University of Illinois
- US Department of Agriculture – Woodpecker Deterrent for Utility Poles
- Woodpecker Nuisance Problems – Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
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