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Deter woodpeckers: Tips to protect property

If you have been awakened in the early morning by a loud drumming sound coming from right outside your window, you could be experiencing the mating behavior of the northern flicker, the most common woodpecker in Colorado and the one doing the most damage to homes.

Woodpeckers “drum” to attract mates, to establish and/or defend a territory, to excavate nesting or roosting sites and to search for insects. Drumming is most common in the spring, during early morning and late afternoon, and usually ends by July 1. Wooden shingles, cedar or redwood siding, metal or plastic gutters, chimney caps and light posts are selected as drumming sites because these materials produce loud sounds.

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) is identified in flight by a yellow or salmon tint under the wings and tail feathers. Flickers have black spots on a tannish-white breast and belly. Males have a black or red mustache extending from the gape of the beak to below the eyes.

In addition to the loud noise often heard early in the morning, woodpeckers can cause property damage by drilling holes in wood, synthetic stucco siding and eaves.

Woodpecker damage can be prevented or eliminated with several techniques, including visual repellents, loud noises, exclusion, alternate construction materials and by providing nesting boxes. Take immediate action to reduce damage, as woodpeckers are not easily driven from their territories or pecking sites once they are established.

The following methods can help prevent woodpecker damage and are explained in more detail in Colorado State University fact sheet 6.516, “Preventing Woodpecker Damage,” which can be downloaded at www.ext.colostate.edu.

Visual repellents
Preliminary research indicates that 7.5-inch diameter shaving or cosmetic mirrors that enlarge the image and hawk silhouette mobiles are successful frightening devices.

Mirrors should be placed on the side of the house where damage occurs. Attach one or two mirrors flat against the wood with the enlarging lens outward to frighten woodpeckers. Hawk mobiles with a wing span of about 22 inches and a length of 11 inches can be constructed from cardboard, half-inch Styrofoam, or quarter-inch plywood. Paint black or another dark color and hang one hawk mobile from the eave near the damaged area with mono-filament line.

Other options such as hanging black plastic strips can also be effective. Where woodpeckers are persistent, use two or more of the above frightening devices simultaneously.

Loud noises and other repellents
Some woodpeckers are also frightened away with persistent loud noises such as banging pots and pans together, firing toy cap guns or yelling. Other woodpeckers are discouraged by deadening the sound-producing area by filling the hollow space behind the wood with expanding foam insulation. This product comes in a can and enables you to spray the foam into the hollow area. It can be purchased from most hardware stores.

Few chemicals that have objectionable tastes and odors are effective for repelling woodpeckers and none are currently registered for that use.

Exclusion
Prompt repair of large holes may encourage the woodpecker to leave or discourage other woodpeckers because these holes may serve as visual attractants.

Cover the holes with aluminum flashing, tin can tops or metal sheathing and paint them to match the siding. If damage occurs near areas that provide perch sites, eliminate these sites by covering them with metal flashing or other materials. Woodpeckers may also be excluded from damaged sites under the eaves by attaching hardware cloth or plastic netting to the eaves, angling it back to the siding below the damaged area and fastening it securely.

Housing materials
Woodpeckers occasionally damage houses to obtain insects in the wood. Because insects seldom infest well-seasoned wood, woodpeckers hammer holes to obtain insects primarily during the first two years after house construction. Insecticides or wood preservatives may deter woodpeckers by killing the insects. Woodpeckers frequently damage cedar, rough pine or redwood siding, and some synthetic stucco exterior finishing. Plywood and Masonite are less frequently damaged.

Nesting boxes
All North American woodpeckers are primarily cavity nesters that excavate their own cavities, but some species occasionally use existing cavities or nest boxes. Since existing cavities are not always available to them, some woodpeckers choose buildings as nesting sites. Providing them with an alternative — a nesting box — is worth trying where other methods have failed. For details on how to build a nesting box to keep them from your home, read the CSU fact sheet available at www.ext.colostate.edu

CPR and first aid
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931. We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Costs for the classes are $80 for combined CPR/first aid, $55 for individual CPR or first aid and $35 for recertification with proof of current certification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

Workshops
Free Chain Saw Safety Workshop, May 29, 10 a.m.-noon. CSU Extension building, Archuleta County Fairgrounds. Operating a chain saw can be dangerous. Learn to operate this important tool safely and maintain it for optimum efficiency.

On-site Defensible Space Workshop, June 19, 10 a.m.-noon. These on-site workshops will take you through the steps to create a wildfire defensible space around your home and structures. An on-site location in Archuleta County will be identified.

On-site Oak Brush Management Workshop, June 26, 10 a.m.-noon. Gambel oak is one of our most common and prolific shrubs. Learn how to manage this shrub for greater wildfire prevention. A location within the county will be identified for this hands-on training.

This story was posted on May 30, 2014.