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Woodpeckers Pecking Houses

Dear Bird Folks,

I have this woodpecker that loves to eat my house. Why is it doing that and what can I do to stop it?”

– Chip, Chatham


Hi Chip,

How hold is your house? Back in the early 70’s, before the vegetarians took over, a lot of houses were insulated with beef suet. Suet is a great insulator. That’s why cows never seem either hot or cold, they just stare and chew. So you might want to check that out first. If your walls are filled with suet, you’ll have to remove it, because woodpeckers love suet. Try replacing the suet with something that woodpeckers don’t care for, like tofu or pudding. But don’t use tapioca, that would be stupid.

The other reason that woodpeckers attack houses is to mark their territory. There is usually a hollow space in back of your trim boards and woodpeckers will bang at that like a drum to claim a territory. The drumming alone usually doesn’t cause too much damage and will probably stop in a week or two. However, sometimes the woodpecker wants to find out why your trim board is hollow underneath. The woodpecker thinks that insects have hollowed out your trim boards and it wants to get at them. That is when you end up with lots of damaging holes.

All the successful remedies that I know about are homemade and sometimes they work, but not all of the time. Some people have had luck with plastic owls. Plastic owls don’t seem to scare much else, but they seem to work with woodpeckers. I used a rubber snake when I had flickers whacking on my roof. It stopped them instantly. That rubber snake kept the flickers away all spring, until the raccoons found it and chewed the head off. Another thing to try is a mirror. The woodpecker wants your yard as part of its territory and it might just leave if it can’t drive off the “other” woodpecker, which is its own reflection.

But no matter what remedy you try, it is important that you put the owl, snake or mirror on the exact spot that the woodpecker is coming to. I know it is probably the highest point of the house, which is impossible to get to, but I didn’t tell you to build a 12-story cottage. That was your idea.