A Northern flicker is shown with her babies.

Generally, woodpeckers peck at houses for one of three reasons –

One is drumming to attract a mate or proclaim territory. During courtship, most woodpeckers proclaim their availability to prospective mates through flight displays, calling or drumming. Surfaces for drumming will frequently include wood siding, wood-covered fireplaces or chimneys, rain gutters and downspouts, vents and dead trees.

The second reason is food. Woodpeckers may actively search for insects. Homes with stucco or Dryvit siding can give woodpeckers mixed signals. During temperature fluctuations, the Styrofoam insulation backing shifts making noise that simulates the sound of insects.

Nesting is the third (but least common) reason woodpeckers peck on surfaces on houses. Nesting holes may be hammered completely through the siding and insulation. Often a number of such cavities will be started until the bird finds a suitable situation for the nest site.

Ways to Discourage Woodpeckers:

1. Spray the woodpecker with water from a garden or high-pressure water hose.

2. Light weight pie plates and metal can lids can be suspended on a string. One end of the string can be near a convenient window or door where the line can be jerked whenever the bird appears.

3. Attach string to the ends of aluminum foil strips cut two to three inches in width and two to three feet in length and hang from damaged or tapping sites.

5. Models or silhouettes of snakes, owls or hawks may be the least effective unless they are hung to move in the breeze.

NOTE: Woodpeckers are federally protected. When warranted, a bird may be killed under a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Before a permit will be issued it must be demonstrated that other methods of exclusion or deterrence were attempted first. Contact the nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office for details.

Kathy and her husband, John, own and operate the Wild Birds Unlimited, located in Billings and at www.wbu.com/billings.