Woodpeckers cause damage to wooden structures by their pecking or drilling of holes. Typically, holes in structures are made in an attempt to construct a nest site or to feed on insects present in the wood.
Depending on the species of woodpecker, adults are about 6” to 18” inches long. The color will vary between species, however most males will have some red color on their heads along with black and white markings. Woodpeckers have shorter bills that are sharply pointed like a chisel. Their tail feathers have pointed, stiffened tips that are used to brace and support the bird as it climbs trees. Woodpeckers have short legs with two sharp-clawed toes that point forward and two claws that point backwards. These toes also assist in allowing the bird to cling to trees, wooden fence posts, utility poles or wooden siding.
Woodpecker Life Stages
Woodpeckers breed in the spring from March to May. Birds excavate holes in trees that will serve as their nest for the entire year. They sometimes use existing abandoned cavities, but most often create their own to use for roosting and breeding. The male selects a site for a nest hole, and both males and females work together to excavate a cavity.
Females will lay between 3-10 eggs which incubate for about two weeks. When a woodpecker hatches, it is featherless and blind. Parents work together to raise their young with the male doing the bulk of the work. He does the majority of labor in constructing the nest and incubates the eggs at night so the female can rest. After another 18-30 days, the nestlings will be ready to leave the nest.
Threats of Woodpeckers
The drumming of a woodpecker on the woodwork or gutter of a residence, in and of itself, is a major annoyance to homeowners. Drumming is a 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. Drumming may occur a number of times a day, and the activity may go on for some time.
Damage to wooden structures and trees may take several forms. Holes may be drilled into wooden siding, fascia boards or window casings. Woodpecker damage to utility poles can be severe and widespread in some regions, requiring pole replacement. In addition, woodpeckers will commonly peck out insects from infested wood on structures, particularly the larvae and pupae of the carpenter bee. In severe cases, the rows of holes can be drilled so close together, resulting in a loss of sap, weakening and causing significant damage to the tree.
Woodpecker Prevention & Control
Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act as migratory, non-game birds. Prevention and exclusion are the primary actions homeowners can take to deter woodpeckers from nesting on their property. Take the following actions to prevent woodpeckers from building nesting sites on your property:
- The eaves or wood siding of buildings can be netted by a pest professional with nylon or plastic netting to exclude birds.
- Woodpeckers can be discouraged from shade or backyard trees by wrapping hardware cloth or burlap around the area being attacked.
- Remove large trees or prune branches near structures where birds are pecking, as they will feel more exposed and vulnerable.
- Woodpeckers feed on the larvae of carpenter bees. If you suspect these insects are feeding on wooden structures of the home, contact a pest professional for an inspection. Pest treatments to remove carpenter bees will help to eliminate the woodpeckers food source.