March 5, 2021

Woodpeckers can be a real treat at your home bird feeders, but sometimes these welcome visitors become unwelcome guest in your own home. Most species of woodpeckers here in the greater Kansas City metro area are year-round residents. Although in the winter we do host several species, probably the most common is the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. Some of our most common woodpeckers’ species that are year round residents are the Red-Bellied, Hairy, Downy, Northern Flicker and the Red-Headed woodpecker. And a species that is expanding and becoming more common even in our suburban areas is the impressive Pileated woodpecker. All of these year-round species breed here in Missouri.

Although entertaining to watch at the bird feeders throughout the year, come spring they may decide to use your home as a “drumming” location. These “drumming” spots are used in the spring and fall of the year. In the spring they are commonly used to attract mates. The males are attracted to anything from the side of your home, your windows, your metal chimney or metal heater pipe. They like to pick things that have a unique sound and will resonate throughout the area. The greater the sound and the more unique the better odds of attracting a mate. This “drumming” behavior is also used to establish an audible boundary of the bird’s territory. The fall of the year is when you have a greater degree of the younger birds of the spring establishing their own territories using this technique.

Woodpeckers can damage the home. Particularly if there is water damage or wood rot anywhere on your home. They will attack this soft wood and literally excavate a large hole out of this soft wood and damaged wood. There is a lot of debate amount biologist and ornithologist on why this occurs. Some speculate that they are looking for insects within the soft wood much like they would do on an old dead tree in the woods. Other feel it is simply the result of their “drumming” activity. If your home has siding that is DryVit and woodpeckers start pecking at this insulating siding you will most likely have a real war on your hands. I have seen a Northern Flicker literally excavate over 12 softball size holes in a home with DryVit and all were evenly spaced about two feet apart. Looked like he used a tape measure. And to make matters worse, it is extremely hard to find someone to repair this type of siding and make it look original.

Sometimes woodpeckers will create a cavity within an outside wall of the home and attempt to nest within this cavity. They are rarely if ever successful, largely to the fact that they European Starling which is a much more aggressive bird will force the woodpecker out and take over nesting in the cavity.

So at this point you may be asking yourself; what would I do if I had a woodpecker damaging my home? The best thing to do is try and scare the bird away from the home. Mylar is one of the most used products to use. And although a little unsightly it is better than baseball size holes in your homes siding. Some have tried wind chimes, pie pans and those whirly bird foil things that you blow in and it spins. Legally you cannot kill the bird. But, after looking at the damage that they have done that may have been your first idea. All species of woodpeckers are federally protected.

So, if you can’t live with them, scare them away.

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