Nevada Fish & Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region

Woodpecker

 
Norther FlickerWoodpeckers have short legs, sharp claws, stiff tails and stout, sharp beaks with long tongues. They are adept at climbing trees and pecking for larvae or ants from burrows within the wood.

Habitat - Woodpeckers are found on the edge of wooded areas. They can also be found on wooden fence posts, utility poles and buildings.

Diet - Most woodpeckers feed on tree-living or wood-boring insects. Some feed on native berries, fruit, nuts and seeds. Sapsuckers feed on tree sap as well as insects.

Behavior - Woodpeckers peck into trees in search of food or to create a nesting site. They also "drum," or peck in a rapid rhythmic succession to establish their territory and attract mates. Drumming usually occurs in the spring on metal or wood resonant surfaces. It may occur a number of times during a single day, and last for days or months. Most woodpeckers live year-round in the same area. They are very persistent and not easily driven from their established territory.
 
Reproduction - They nest in tree cavities, holes in buildings, or other cavities. They have 4 to 8 eggs.
 

Identifying Damage Caused by Woodpeckers:

 
1) Holes drilled into siding - woodpeckers usually peck on wooden siding (cedar and redwood, especially) because it contains insects, usually wood-boring insect larvae such as the leaf cutter bee. In the summer, woodpeckers peck for larvae. In the fall and spring, many kinds of insects go into openings to hibernate for the winter, but move around when cold nights are followed by warm days. Woodpeckers detect this insect movement and peck through the siding to get to them. They often drill 5 or 6 holes, 1/2 inch in diameter. In panel siding, the holes are in a straight line, usually horizontal.
 
2) Drumming on metal or wood, including gutters, drainpipes, chimney caps, TV antennas, plumbing vents, and wooden siding, poles or hollow trees. Besides the damage to the metal or wood, the noise can be annoying.
 
3) Damage to live trees - Sapsuckers make 1/4 to 3/8 inch closely spaced holes in the bark to remove the sap. Usually several favorite trees are selected and nearby trees may be untouched. After many holes are drilled, the tree may be girdled or damaged by diseases and other organisms. Hardwood timber is lowered in value if holes are pecked in the trees.
 
4) Removal of fruits and nuts - Woodpeckers can also have an impact on the crop of fruit and nut bearing trees in the backyard, although this is generally minor compared to damage to trees or siding from pecking.
 

How to Prevent Damage by Woodpeckers

 
Insect control
1) Destroy insect nests with a long thin instrument, such as a stiff wire, before woodpeckers discover it.

2) Control the insects using the appropriate pesticide, then seal the openings and holes to prevent re-infestation.

3 ) Prevent insect nesting - plug the exposed voids in the grooves of the veneer cores to eliminate nesting sites. These entrance holes must be filled before the bees build their nest. If the holes are plugged after the nest is made, the bees will chew their way out or the woodpeckers will seek out the larvae.
 
Plug Woodpecker Holes 
 
On Wood - After you have controlled the insects, patch the hole with an exterior patching compound stained to match the plywood finish.
 
On Siding

1) Install metal sheathing (aluminum flashing) over the pecked area as soon as damage begins.

2) Install quarter inch wire mesh (hardware cloth) over the damaged area, preferably raised 1 inch away from the siding.

3) Replace wood siding with aluminum, steel or vinyl.
 
On siding under eaves - Install a lightweight nylon or plastic mesh between the eaves and the damaged area, leaving at least 3 inches between the net and the damaged area.
 
On trees - Loosely wrap hardware cloth, plastic, or burlap around the holes. In orchards or forests, allow sapsuckers to attack one tree, since they will attack others if they are repelled from their favorite one.
 
Repellents - Use as soon as the problem is identified, since woodpeckers are not easily driven away once they have establish their territory.
 
1) Visual - model owls, snake decoys and owl silhouettes are mostly ineffective. Toy plastic twirlers, windmills, flashing mirrors and aluminum pie pans can be used with limited success.
 
2) Sound - repeatedly frightening the bird with sudden loud noises, such as banging on a garbage can lid, hand clapping or a toy cap pistol may keep them away.
 
3) Sticky substances - sticky repellents such as Roost-No-More can be smeared onto tree trunks, wood siding, etc. The birds dislike the tacky footing. Since some of the repellents will discolor wood, apply it to pressed board and then fasten it to the damaged area.
 
4) Water from a hose.
 
Last updated: April 16, 2014