When it comes down to it, it really depends on “why” the woodpeckers are going after the house, as opposed to what to do about it. Woodpeckers typically drill into houses for one of four reasons:
- It makes a satisfyingly loud noise that proclaims the bird’s territory and attracts a mate. If the birds are drumming for this reason, they will most likely stop once breeding begins in the spring.
- The bird wants to create a nest or roost hole. If this is the case, the holes created will be round and large. If you have to evict woodpeckers from your home, aim to do so either before or after the nesting season (between late April and May).
- The bird is feeding on insects living in the side of the house. Here, the holes will be small and irregular. You may have to call an exterminator to rid the house of an underlying insect problem.
- They are storing food.
In terms of deterring woodpeckers, homeowners have reported some success with windsocks, pinwheels, helium balloons (shiny, bright Mylar balloons are especially effective), strips of aluminum foil, or reflective tape. Others keep woodpeckers away by covering affected areas with burlap or attaching bird netting (the kind designed for gardens and fruit trees) from overhanging eaves to the siding. If you use netting, make sure it is pulled taut and set at least 3 inches from the siding, as to avoid birds pecking through it. Close off openings on the sides to prevent birds from becoming trapped between the netting and the house.
A Cornell Lab tested different deterrent methods in order to see how well each method prevented woodpecker damage. The methods tested included life-sized plastic owls with paper wings, reflective streamers, plastic eyes on fishing line, roost boxes, suet feeders, and a sound system which broadcasted woodpecker distress calls followed by the call of a hawk. Only the streamers worked as a deterrent with any consistency: the shiny coating and movement in the wind kept the woodpeckers at bay and completely eliminated damage at half of the 16 test sites. Plastic owls and distress calls may work at first, but after a while the woodpeckers get used to them and go back to their old habits. Bottom line, unfortunately: nothing works all the time. The study also found that aluminum and vinyl sidings in lighter colors are less likely to be damaged by woodpeckers.
You may want to plug the woodpecker’s holes with wood putty to discourage further activity. If a woodpecker has dug a roost hole into your house, make sure there are no birds inside before sealing it up. Never use any sticky “repellent,” such as Tanglefoot Pest Control, Roost-No-More, or Bird Stop, outdoors. These types of products can fatally injure the birds and other animals.
Here are some good resources for you to check out!
http://www.birds.cornell.edu/wp_about/index.html –> Information on Woodpecker Species