Woodpeckers are not known to pose any health risks to humans. However, they can cause considerable damage to buildings and trees while searching for food, nesting sites, or trying to attract mates. Holes caused by woodpeckers along with being unsightly may provide access to insects or facilitate fungal growth. Additionally, the rhythmic pecking of woodpeckers (known as drumming) can be quite frustrating to those in close proximity.

Did you Know?

Woodpeckers are unique among birds because they drill into trees. Despite the prolonged and heavy impact of this activity, woodpeckers avoid injury because of the unique structure of their skulls. They have a special bone (known as the hyoid bone) that wraps around their skull, acting as a shock absorber and preventing brain damage.

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The size of a woodpecker varies by species; however, most are between 6-18” in length. The majority of species have four toes arranged with two facing forward and two facing back (known as a zygodactyl foot). However a few groups are known to have three toes. Many species have some assortment of black and white markings, with males of many varieties sporting red coloration on their heads. Stiff tail feathers, short legs, and sharp claws are traits common to all woodpeckers.

The woodpecker is commonly found in wooded regions, where access to food and nesting sites are abundant. Their bodies are designed to thrive woodland habitats where they can cling to tree trunks and branches while pecking for food. These adaptations also allow them to easily cling to wood siding, telephone poles, and other structures which they commonly damage. Wooden buildings in suburbs, and more rural areas are particularly enticing as they provide woodpeckers with easily accessible drumming and foraging sites.

Because they typically require trees for food and shelter, woodpeckers select nesting sites in and around forests and other wooded areas. Using their strong beaks to bore holes into tree limbs or trunks when carving out places to nest. Woodpeckers prefer to live in dead trees and show a tendency to build on the side of a structure that receives the most light and warmth from the morning sun. The loss of old growth trees has increased their use of man-made structures for nesting sites, such as wooden fence posts, utility poles, and buildings, as they adapt to an ever-changing environment.

Woodpeckers typically breed in the spring (and summer for some varieties). Depending on the species, eggs will be laid in clutches of 1-3 or 3-8. The incubation period usually lasts from 11- 14 days with chicks leaving their nests in 2-5 weeks from the time they hatch. Woodpeckers typically have two broods a year, however this somewhat varies from species to species. Eggs are often monitored by both parents during the incubation period.

Most woodpecker problems happen during the breeding season, beginning in early spring. During this time, they begin drilling, nesting, and roosting in cavities. The rhythmic tapping (known as drumming) on resonant objects, is a telltale sign that the woodpecker breeding season has begun. Woodpeckers drum on objects to find and communicate with mates or establish territory.

  1. Many species of woodpecker mate for life and will work together to incubate eggs and feed their young
  2. Woodpeckers primarily feed on tree-living or wood-boring insects, using their strong beak and long tongue to dislodge food.
  3. For most woodpeckers, cold weather is not a problem because of the availability of their food supply under bark or in dead or rotted wood where it is out of reach of most birds.

What damage do woodpeckers cause?

Woodpeckers cause property damage by drilling holes in wood, synthetic stucco siding, and eaves and can be an annoyance when hammering or “drumming” on houses.

Why are woodpeckers pecking at my trees and my home?

There are three reasons why woodpeckers peck wood.

  1. Communication (known as drumming)
  2. Feeding
  3. Nesting

How do I prevent woodpeckers from nesting and pecking the wood on my property?

  1. Remove all food sources. Large dead limbs or infested trees harbor a variety of insects that attract woodpeckers.
  2. Keep large trees away from your home.
  3. Use repellents such as hawk silhouettes.
  4. Place chicken wire or bird netting over areas of the home where woodpeckers frequent.

Total and permanent woodpecker removal may require a long-term management plan. Woodpeckers are protected in most places, and nonlethal methods are always recommended and preferred. A variety of products and strategies are typically required and are always best administered by licensed professionals. If you’re having problems with woodpeckers, contact Abell Pest Control today.

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