Possible causes for woodpecker problems
I was told that my woodpecker problem could be caused due to a termite or carpenter fly problem & should have exterminator check that first! Is this a major problem or should I try to deter it first after plugging hole?
Caldwell County North Carolina
Thank you for your question. Woodpeckers drum or drill on the siding of homes usually for one of three reasons: they're looking for insects below the surface of the wood, they are advertising their territory and/or looking for a mate or they are excavating a nest. If you have an infestation of some type of insect, especially termites, this can be very serious, and an exterminator is probably the best equipped to determine if this is the case. If the woodpecker is not pursuing insects, and is, instead, trying to excavate a nest, that activity can result in a large hole in your house, which, in addition to giving the bird access to the wall of the house, also makes it easy for insects and potentially other wildlife to get into the wall of the house and cause additional damage.
If the bird is simply advertising for a mate, there are some steps you can take to attempt to deter him, but, unfortunately, when dealing with wildlife, there are no guarantees. Here are several different approaches you can try:
(1) Banging on pots and pans or spraying water from a hose in the vicinity of the bird will usually make them leave, however, this technique requires that you run outside to do this as soon as the bird starts drumming. If you work during the day or are away from home frequently, the bird has opportunities to drum/drill on the siding without experiencing any of the negative reinforcement.
(2) Hang mylar tape or strips of aluminum foil in the area where the birds are drumming. Sometimes the movement of the tape will frighten the bird off. Sometimes, however, they may move to a different location on the building, but this is a cheap approach to try. Mylar tape is usually available in gardening departments or at gardening shops. You can also find sources online by Googling "bird scare tape".
(3) Hang large inflatable eyes from the same area where the bird is drumming. These are balloon-like items that have a black eye printed on them. They are made to resemble predator eyes, and they hang from springs, so they move up and down and are blown from side to side by wind currents. They are available through wildlife damage control websites, and sometimes can be found in gardening supply or home improvement stores. These are generally better than installing a fake owl in the area. These usually work for a couple of days, but the birds eventually figure out that the owl doesn't pose a threat, and just ignore it. An alternative to this method, and somewhat cheaper, is to use the mylar balloons you find in the floral departments of grocery stores or at party supply stores. You can attach ribbons to the inflated balloons and allow them to float around the area where the bird is drumming. Because the balloons are so light, they move easily with wind currents and their surface reflects light in several different directions. This is often enough to harass the birds into leaving the area.
(4) If the bird has already done significant damage to an area, you can cover this area with sheet metal, and this will sometimes discourage them from further drumming. Once they've left the area, you can remove the sheet metal and repair the damage.
(5) A final approach is to hang special bird netting from the eave of your home at an angle back to the siding of the building. This can be expensive, especially if you're trying to cover a large area, but it provides a physical barrier that prevents the birds from accessing the area they're visiting. Bird netting can usually be found in gardening departments of home improvement stores or gardening stores. It is normally used to place over shrubs and small trees to prevent birds from eating fruit. If you can't find it locally, it is available on line from several sources. Just Google "bird netting".
Hope this helps, and thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.