All members of the woodpecker family are protected by federal law (i.e., the Migratory Bird Treaty Act) as well as by the laws of most states. A permit is required from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill damage-causing birds. Non-lethal methods of resolving the problem are always preferred over killing the birds.
- Adult body length: 6 to 18 inches
- Adult body weight: 1 to 16 ounces
- Egg incubation period: 11 to 14 days
- Broods per year: 1 to 3 (depending on species)
- Brood size: 3 to 8 eggs per clutch (depending on species)
- Birthing Period: Spring and summer
- Age at which young leave nest: 2 to 5 weeks
- Activity seasonality: Year-round
- Primary diet: insects, acorns, nuts, seed, suet, berries, other fruits
Certain species of woodpeckers can cause damage to wooden structures by their pecking or drilling holes. This may be in an attempt to find insects, nest, or claim territory by drumming. [Drumming is the term given to the noise made by woodpeckers pecking in rapid rhythmic succession on wood. This is a springtime activity of males proclaiming their territories.]
The species most commonly to cause structural damage are Downy woodpecker (pictured above), Hairy woodpecker, Red-headed woodpecker, and Red-bellied woodpecker. Wooden houses or buildings in the suburbs or in more rural wooded settings are most apt to be damaged by woodpeckers, for this is the habitat where they thrive. Generally, damage to a building involves only one or two birds. Damage to wooden buildings may take one of several forms. Holes may be drilled into wooden siding, eave facing boards, or window casings and, if the accessible cavity is suitable, it may be used as a nesting site. Natural or stained rough cedar wood siding seems preferred in some regions whereas redwood siding is damaged extensively in other areas. Contrary to a rather common belief that only insect-infested wood is damaged, some species of woodpeckers readily peck holes in wood sidings of homes and outbuildings with no insect issues.
Harassment and Deterrents
There are a variety of deterrents used to harass woodpeckers in the attempt to make them leave the site. Most are visual and use sunlight to reflect light in an attempt to scare them away. These deterrents can be attached to the home or adjacent trees to maximize sunlight needed to reflect light onto the structure.
Varment Guard technicians are equipped to apply a variety of repellants to the siding of your home to help prevent woodpeckers from pecking or landing on your home.
Trapping and Removal
It is common for persistent woodpeckers to get used to the deterrents and repellants and still cause damage to the structure. Once all non-lethal options have been exhausted, home owners and businesses can apply for a permit to remove the problem woodpeckers. Permits are issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Applications for this permit and informational packets are sent from USDA Wildlife Services by calling 866-487-3297. A permit fee of $50 for residential home owners does apply from USFWS.