Downy Woodpecker

Recently, a reader wrote me about a problem with a woodpecker. A Downy Woodpecker was drilling holes in her house. Understandably, she was looking for any suggestions for stopping the damage. Luckily, this woodpecker moved on, but her question had me do a bit of research. Here is what I learned about why woodpeckers peck:

Looking for Food – Woodpeckers are looking for overwintering insects and their larvae at this time of year. They like carpenter bee larvae (along with other wood-boring insects and ants) which make their own holes and cause damage in houses. If this is your problem, consulting a pest control expert may be your best bet.

Roost Cavities – Woodpeckers roost at night in shallow cavities they find or create. They crawl in these to get out of the wind and cold.

Nest holes – This is less likely at this time of year. Woodpeckers nest in the spring/early summer. These holes are distinct and different from those made when foraging for food. They are about 1-1.5 inches across and usually perfectly round.

Attracting Mates & Defending Territory – Woodpeckers also hammer on the side of houses to establish their territory. They usually do not drill holes in these cases. They are trying to make noise to attract mates and ward off rivals. This is more likely in breeding season which is in the spring, but it could happen at any time of the year.

What can you do if a woodpecker is hammering on your house? In almost all of these cases, the advice is to make your house less attractive to the problem woodpecker. Mylar or tinfoil strips, old shiny CDs, balloons, pinwheels, or wind chimes hung close to the affected area can be helpful. Most birds don’t like new, shiny, flapping items introduced into their habitat. So, these simple solutions could help if you have this problem in the future.

As I close, I wanted to let you know this will be my last article in the Bethel Citizen. I have written this column for three years. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about the birds in our area. I hope I’ve passed a little along to you. More importantly, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful people who have a deep love for birds and our region. Your commitment to the land, waters, and creatures has been an inspiration. It has been my pleasure to meet you.

If you’d like to stay in touch, send your email address to my attention at [email protected] I will include you in a periodic newsletter on area birds, bird walks, and talks at the Mahoosuc Land Trust. I hope I see you on the trails in the future. And of course, if you see a strange guy staring up with binoculars, introduce yourself and ask me what I’m seeing.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is James Reddoch’s final column for The Bethel Citizen. The staff and its readers have thoroughly enjoyed his contributions for the past years. He will be missed.

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