How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers

Greater Spotted Woodpecker The sound of pounding away on a tree outside your house can drive you to get rid of woodpeckers. Their presence is unmistakable and they can peck for hours and hours without stop. Woodpeckers have short legs with two sharp-clawed, backward-pointed toes and stiff tail feathers, which serve as a supportive prop. They primarily feed on tree-living or wood-boring insects using their strong beak and long tongue to dislodge food.

Some members of the Woodpecker family (Flickers) feed on insects off the ground, while others prefer native berries, fruit and nuts. They particularly like to peck on trees, especially dead trees, branches, and bark where there are insects.

Woodpeckers are an important part of the forest. They hunt for insects by drilling holes in dead wood. Many of the insects they eat could harm trees. The nesting cavities woodpeckers dig in trees become homes for other creatures; bluebirds, chickadees, and squirrels. If woodpeckers make holes in your trees, often the wounds will attract insects, porcupines and squirrels. Diseases and wood-decaying organisms will find their way into the tree through the woodpecker-flicker wound, which can eventually lead to decay and death of the trees in your yard.

Since woodpeckers are considered migratory birds, you don’t expect them to be around your house 365 days a year. They usually visit you only during their breeding season, which only lasts several weeks. At this time of year, the most damaging factor caused by woodpeckers is when they decide to establish a temporary territory around your house.

Even though the woodpecker pounds for hours at a time, its head does not get hurt. Strong neck muscles give the woodpecker the power to pound. Its hard, pointed bill has a sharp edge to chip wood. Like a helmet, a thick skull and extra muscles cushion the brain, so it does not get hurt by pounding.

Reasons why woodpeckers peck

    Drumming: Woodpeckers drum to declare territory.

    Feeding: Woodpeckers peck to catch insects.

    Nesting: Woodpeckers peck nests in holes in trees.

All Woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and control methods must not harm the birds. Here are some safe woodpecker measures you should consider.

Visual Deterrents

Try scaring Woodpeckers away with moving objects that reflect light. Hang aluminum foil or strips of Mylar from the trees by a string. There are also many silhouettes of predatory birds for sale. Mount them in or near the trees where the Woodpeckers like to congregate.

Sound Deterrents

Sound deterrents mimic to calls of predatory birds. These calls tell the Woodpeckers to stay away. Sound deterrent systems can be as much as $100 or more. These type of machines are motion sensitive and make the predatory bird calls when bird movement is detected.

Cordon Measures

Cordon measures involve protecting by netting off the areas where your trees are being invaded by Woodpeckers. To prevent the Woodpeckers from getting their wings caught in the nets you must use cloth or plastic netting that’s a fine enough mesh.


If other methods have failed you may wish to resort to trapping the Woodpeckers and have them taken elsewhere by wildlife personnel. You must obtain a permit before doing this. The following methods to control Woodpeckers are considered to be somewhat harmful to the birds and should not be used.

Harmful Methods

Sticky resins are applied on the problem areas. There are several types available on the market. These resins are made to discourage Woodpeckers from perching on certain surfaces. The problem with them is that they may stick anywhere on the bird’s feathers and cause problems with it’s flight. Some people use suet instead. Suet is hardened beef fat. The use of suet is discouraged because when warm the suet melts and may permanently get stuck in the bird’s feathers.

Pesticides should never be used to keep away Woodpeckers because pesticides are poisons and therefore harmful if not fatal to the birds.

Photo by Ricky, Creative Commons Attribution License