Introduction

                There are many different species of woodpeckers.  In the Richmond area, eight species are fairly common, including the Red-headed, red-bellied, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downey, Hairy, Northern Flicker, Common Flicker, and Pileated.  All species of woodpeckers use their beaks to chisel away wood quickly and efficiently.  It is this trait which allows them, at times, to cause great damage to human property.

               

Damage Concerns

                There are three primary activities which bring woodpeckers into conflict with humans.  The most common is when woodpeckers make nest holes in buildings.  This is a common problem with natural wood (cedar, redwood, etc.) siding and Dryvit (fake stucco).  It is not a problem with hardboard siding unless the siding has already been softened by moisture damage.  Male woodpeckers will make a number of nest holes throughout their territories in order to attract females for spring nesting.  Most of the holes made in siding will never be used by the woodpeckers for nesting, but other birds and squirrels commonly move into them.  Nest holes may be made at any time but late fall through early spring are the most common times for this activity.  More than one species of woodpecker may be working on the same building at the same time.

                The second problem is called “drumming”.  Male woodpeckers will advertise their claim on a territory by finding an object which can be used like a drum and beat on it rapidly with their beaks.  The resulting machine gun-like noise can be heard for some distance and tells other males to stay away.  Traditionally the “drum” is a hollow tree; however, some woodpeckers have discovered that metal chimney tops, gutters, and downspouts make even better drums.  The surface being beat on is not damaged in the process, but the resulting noise can be annoying, especially in the wee hours of the morning.

                The third problem is when woodpeckers chisel away at buildings looking for wood-boring insects.  This most commonly occurs when carpenter bees nest in wood trim or siding.  Woodpeckers will remove rows of wood to expose the bee’s tunnel.  They do this in summer to feed on the larvae (baby bees) and in the winter to feed on the hibernating adults.

               

 

Control

                All species of woodpeckers are protected under state and federal law.  It is illegal to kill or even to capture one without special permits.  Such permits are issued only in extreme cases, and only after other control measures have failed.  (Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for more details). 

                In most cases woodpeckers can be scared away from buildings where they are doing damage by hanging bright flashy objects which move in the wind near the damaged areas.  We use a Mylar tape specifically designed for frightening birds, hung about every 15 feet in the damaged area(s).  Sometimes the woodpecker responds by simply moving to another part of the building, rather than leaving the area altogether and more Mylar is needed.  In rare cases, the woodpecker ignores the Mylar and damage continues.

                Holes made by woodpeckers are usually small enough that they can be filled with caulk or putty, and painted over.  If damage is more extensive, or if a perfect look is desired, a carpenter or siding contractor can be brought in to replace the damaged siding or trim.

                Carpenter bees can be treated in the spring prior to egg laying, and in the fall prior to hibernating.  Once woodpeckers begin feeding on them, the bees are already sealed inside the wood and chemical treatments will have little effect.   

 

Management 

                Natural wood or Dryvit siding is likely to get occasional woodpecker damage.  A quick walk-around should be conducted once a month to look for woodpecker holes.  Any nest holes (holes which go all the way through) must be patched quickly to prevent squirrels and birds from moving in.  If problems persist, or if there are more than a few holes, scare devices should be deployed.  In extreme cases, it may be worthwhile to consider converting to another type of siding.  Carpenter bees boring holes in boards should be watched for from April through early June, so that holes can be treated, as needed, with insecticide.

              

 

Critter Control of Richmond provides service to the following cities:

Ashland | Chester | Chesterfield | Colonial Heights | Glen Allen | Henrico

Highland Springs | Hopewell | Manakin Sabot | Mechanicsville | Midlothian

Moseley | Petersburg  | Powhatan | Richmond | Sandston | Varina 

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