Woodpecker Problems

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Woodpeckers can cause damage by drilling holes in siding and eaves.Woodpecker Problems in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Woodpeckers are a common sight in our Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky neighborhoods. They easily find good food and shelter in our forests but also in and around our homes and businesses. Although they typically avoid contact with people, certain behaviors can cause problems.

Woodpeckers cause property damage by drilling holes in siding and eaves, and valuable ornamental trees can be damaged as they drill and search for tree sap. They can be particularly destructive to summer lake homes that are frequently vacant as the problem goes undetected. For the same reason, barns and other wooden outbuildings may also suffer severe damage. Rooftop electrical and water-heating solar panels are also susceptible.

Maybe the worst damage is the early end to a peaceful night’s sleep as a woodpecker hammers away on your roof, metal gutter, chimney cap or downspout.

The tri-state region is home to many different species of woodpeckers - from the large Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) to the smaller, more common, Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens). These birds range in size from 7 to 15 inches, have short legs, sharp-clawed toes and stiff tails. These traits enable them to cling to trunks, wood siding and utility poles. Their stout pointed beaks peck easily into wood and their long tongues are used to gather insect larvae and ants. They also feed on berries, fruits, nuts, seeds and tree sap. Woodpeckers are very adaptable finding shelter in utility poles, fence posts and buildings, so can also be found in areas where trees are relatively scarce.

Why is a woodpecker hammering on my house?

Occasionally woodpeckers are hammering in an attempt to excavate a nesting site or to find food. However, and most likely, they are announcing to the rest of neighborhood that this is their turf! The pecking or "drumming" is most frequent during the spring breeding season and is used to attract mates and to warn off other males.

This particular activity can damage siding, gutters, soffits and other areas where a suitable perch can be found. As most birds are early risers, this behavior can wake your entire family as the sound rings throughout the house. Thankfully, they usually stop pecking once the breeding season ends in summer.

Can they be trapped and removed?

Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act meaning that a permit from the federal government must be obtained in order to trap, remove or otherwise disturb or harm woodpeckers. They are also commonly protected under state laws and the occasional local regulation. And before you can get a permit to trap, remove or destroy the offending woodpecker, you must show that you have unsuccessfully tried all reasonable non-lethal deterrent methods.

What can I do to stop the woodpecker problem?

Woodpeckers can be very difficult to remove once they settle on your house. And while the nuisance behavior is normally temporary, the pecking can cause damage and disturb you and your family. While no method has proven to be fail-safe, numerous techniques can be tried to encourage the woodpecker to move along. These can include:

  • Use of loud sounds, from music to hand claps,
  • Install visual deterrents such as twirlers, plastics strips, pie pans, etc.
  • Remove available perching spots such as ledges or cracks, if possible
  • Cover the damaged areas with screen, netting, hardware cloth or sheet metal

Any or all of these methods should be used and used consistently. And don't wait - begin immediately before a woodpecker gets too familiar with your property. Federal (and if necessary, state and local) permits to remove the problem woodpecker can be applied for if these attempts fail. However, you must be able to demonstrate continuing damage as well as consistent effort to discourage the problem woodpecker with non-lethal means.

The Most Effective Solution….

If you live in the Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky area and a woodpecker is waking you up too early or digging a hole in your siding, various scare tactics can be used. Woodpeckers, however, can be very persistent and are not easily driven away from their selected pecking sites. Their protection under federal and state regulations further the challenge in controlling a nuisance woodpecker. If all attempts fail in your efforts to discourage a bird from damaging your property or your sleep, a professional, licensed animal control expert can fully assess, advise and address your woodpecker problem.


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