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Woodpeckers and siding

Jennifer Menken


Woodpeckers are very important birds to our landscape. They eat tons of insects every year and help to break down rotting wood. Minnesota has 7 species of woodpecker including the Northern Flicker, Red-Bellied woodpecker, Downy woodpecker, Hairy woodpecker, Red-headed woodpecker, Pileated woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Many species of woodpeckers have adapted to living around people. This is in part because they come to bird feeders and because, as we continue to build further into and replace wooded areas, our houses become alternatives to trees.


Illustration of woodpecker

In general woodpecker damage is most common in urban and suburban areas that are (or were) wooded. Soft wood siding, such as cedar, is particularly attractive to woodpeckers. Often the first clue a woodpecker is interested in your house is the slight tapping or drumming sound that the bird makes as it searches the house for hollow spaces. If a woodpecker is looking for food it will often leave several small (less than 1/2 inch) feeding holes. These holes may be scattered over an area or formed into rows. Holes are often seen near the eaves of the house. One or two larger holes, an inch or more across are usually sign of roosting our nesting behavior.


Woodpeckers live in a wide variety woodlands. Woodpeckers forage for insects that live under the bark of trees and inside rotting wood. As we build into woodlands and as urban tree populations age and change, woodpeckers need to expand their search for food to other sources, namely buildings.

Reasons woodpeckers "attack" houses.

Management strategies

The first thing to remember is to start doing something as soon as possible. Once a woodpecker has made your house part of its routine it is very difficult to get it to change its behavior. The second thing to remember is that all species of woodpeckers are protected by state and federal laws and cannot be killed or trapped with out a permit. Try a combination of the listed tactics to discover a good plan of action for your woodpecker.

Illustration of balloon hanging from gutter

Visual deterrents (try these tactics first)

Wood treatments

Providing food and roosting habitat

illustration of netting

Exclusion techniques


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