Woodpeckers are some of the world's most fascinating birds. Not only are they beautiful, but they have extraordinary lives, unique to them. They have an intriguing ability to use their large, formidable bills to extricate bugs from trees, and build cozy homes for their families. Their existence indicates a healthy forest, and they are important for mitigating insect damage in our trees. Those who are lucky enough to get to see a woodpecker couple raise up their babies, will treasure that experience. Hopefully, that won't be on your house.
As much as most of us appreciate the beauty and intrigue of woodpeckers, we can also find them extremely hard to live with - especially if that means actually living with them on your house. Woodpeckers can cause a lot of damage to a home, sometimes superficial, but unfortunately sometimes quite costly. There are many commercial "solutions" for woodpeckers on the market, yet most of these do not work over the long haul.
Its important to know too that as much as they can anger us, it is not kind to harm them. They are - like us - simply trying to do their best in a world of increasingly limited space for them and resources. Tough love is effective, and not illegal.
PREVENTION & EXCLUSION are KEY Once a bird has found your home an inviting place to be, then your only option is to PREVENT the bird from getting on your home. You will have to use physical methods to prevent the bird from getting to the area they are working on (as in the picture above). If it is later in the season and they already have a nesting cavity in the house, you cannot move them or restrict their access. Let them finish with their babies (try to enjoy this!), the damage is already done. Once they are gone, you can take the following measures. MAKE SURE THERE are NO BIRDs/BABIES IN A HOLE prior to covering!
Other cavity nesters may find your house appealing too.
this is a metal mesh.
Metal works great for woodpeckers.
Staple either directly on the damaged area,
or better, place it away from the house and angled to enclose the entire area.
May not meet Architectural Digest, but you chose to move 'close to nature.' There is no end to our woodpeckers, so might as well deal with this once.
Paint to match house with a metal-grade paint.
Make sure the bird cannot get behind the mesh!
Glue or tack down sheetmetal over holes or areas.
Paint to match.
Bend this for trim.
NETTING (called Garden or Wildlife)
Its critically important that you make sure a bird cannot get behind the netting and get stuck, they can seriously hurt themselves. And you will be hauling a ladder out to rescue them.
Netting holes should be 1 inch or less.
Attach to the underside of the eaves; cup hooks work great for this.
Angle it down and attach the bottom to the house. Cup hooks or plant hangars both work, but so do staples.
Make sure the netting is taught.
Make sure to tack or somehow secure the sides of the netting to the house - if you do not do this, the bird will simply go behind the netting.
Netting is extremely effective for keeping bats and birds off your house.
Framing the netting with attractive molding makes it look more professional.
Be creative. Think like an animal - "How do I get around this?" Then fix that.
BOX THE AREA IN
Build a box around the key area of damage in (usually the Gable end)
Or Simply enclose the gable end in some kind of attractive architectural construction. A woodpecker wants to be UNDER the eaves, protected. Eliminate that option, and you have a solution.
Be sure never to leave a space open for bats and birds above the roof beam! Y
Cover this box with hardware cloth and paint. DO NOT put sheetmetal on this box, see Drumming below.
MYLAR STRIPS (OR OTHER SHINY THINGS)
Birds are not impressed with shiny things or things that move all the time. In time they can get used to it, but if you put enough of this up, they will find it too annoying to stay.
Take shiny Mylar strips and tack them up every foot or even 6 inches across the eaves where the birds are interested.
Add duct tape to the ends to give the tape some structure.
Be sure to tack down the bottoms as well or they will simply flip over the roof at the next wind.
Leave loose enough and twist them so they move and catch the light.
Holographic wind socks also work, but you have to put up a LOT...which is usually more visually problematic for the humans.
PARACORD OR ROPE
Hanging about anything, including paracord or rope from the eaves works well, if you put enough of it.
BirdSavers has a professionally produced product if you want something more attractive.
Never use regular balloons, they are not built for this and will fall off and harm animals. Millions of animals die from balloons each year.
"Scary Eyes" balloon has worked for me, if it is put on the house early. There are longer term solutions, but for the sides of homes (not eaves) this can work great.
Other things like holographic stringers, yard art items like pin wheels, can also work if you do not mind your house becoming a craft space. Netting is less noticeable, but this can be fun.
Many of the Window Solutions listed on the Windows page on this site can be adapted or modified to work as exclusion options. Explore that page too.
A highly effective but sort of extreme solution is to simply hang netting down from the eaves to the ground, this protects windows and your eaves. Crazy? Perhaps, but I know someone who did this, they never killed another bird and had zero damage on their full cedar built home and deck. Of course, they loved birds.
Are you hearing a woodpecker banging on your house? Usually very early in the mornings and then later in the afternoon? This is called drumming, and they are doing it to mark their territory. Most mammals and birds choose a territory and then mark it during breeding season (some birds do this in winter too, to lay claim to a food resource, like Townsend's Solitaires). Woodpeckers, instead of marking with urine as dogs do, use those handy bills. The louder they can make the sound, the better. That is why the nice metal cap you put on your roof over the chimney is awesome for them. It resonates well, and is the tallest spot. What better place to make sure your woodpecker neighbors know this is their area.
Use similar methods as above in excluding the birds.
Paint metal caps, ridgelines with Rubberizing paint (talk to the Hardware store).
Glue or attach burlap to wood or other non-flammable surfaces.
Deaden the sound somehow. Be smart and make sure what you are doing to the chimney is fireproof.
Tolerate it - they will be done soon. If you have done the above to prevent actual nesting on the house, then enjoy the birds, get up when they do, and wait for it to end. Its not that bad.
Most products sold as "safe & humane" are NOT - sticky glues or other substances designed for the bird to get into or stuck to kills birds, they have no way to physically remove this from their feathers. Dirty, sticky feathers lead to hypothermia and slow death by starvation. Cruel. See list below of what NOT TO USE EVER!
Bird Savers - this site has a lot of solutions and sells a professional looking cord solution. They also have instructions on doing it yourself, which is admirable. www.birdsavers.com/
Bird B Gone - be very careful, this site while having a lot of commercial solutions for pigeons and starlings, also has a lot of items that are not bird friendly (like strung wire, sticky substances, and netting that has far too large of holes to prevent injury of a bird (birds' wings can easily get caught in a netting hole larger than an inch (or less for hummers and small songbirds). However, this page has some good solutions that might work for you, at least long enough to get a permanent solution. www.birdbgone.com/pest-bird-profiles/woodpeckers.html