This post is also available in: Spanish
Hello, dear friends! If you spend most of your time at home, chances are you’ve heard an irritating pecking sound that seems to last forever… That, my friends, is the sound of a woodpecker, and it has gotten really common here in Casa de Campo these days.
Oh, woodpeckers… If you have a wooden surface at home (whether it is your ceiling, a wall, a gazebo in your backyard…), these little fellas will be rocking it all-day long, it can easily be one of the most annoying sounds ever, especially when you’re trying to sleep!
It seems like they don’t do anything else besides pecking the wood, and let me tell you… you’re not wrong! Woodpeckers have the ability to peck an astounding 20 times per second and 12,000 times a day.
[On the other hand, here in the Dominican Republic, the woodpeckers are at least very beautiful (see image right)! The species is known as the Hispaniolan Woodpecker and is indigenous to the island of Hispaniola – meaning they are not found anywhere else in the entire world. Click here to read more about the Hispaniolan Woodpecker.]
Anyway I digress, so back to that annoying pecking…
Why do woodpeckers peck?
Well, there are actually three reasons. Four, if you count “to annoy you” as one of them.
1. To establish territories and attract mates
This is called drumming, and is generally done in rapid succession on resonant dead tree trunks or limbs. However, buildings and utility poles, when available, are often alternatives. Drumming may occur a number of times during a single day, and may last for some days or weeks.
2. They are looking for food
Woodpeckers naturally search vertical surfaces of tree trunks and branches for wood boring beetles, carpenter ants, and other insects. The pecking style used for feeding is different from drumming. Only a few pecks are made, and then, the resulting hole is explored with the bird’s bill and tongue. This behavior will continue until an insect is found or the bird acknowledges that there is not one in there. Then the woodpecker may hop a few inches away and peck at ANOTHER place… they just don’t stop!
3. They are excavating a nest cavity
This is usually done on a dead tree or broken snag. These nests are normally lined with wood chips produced when the hole was being built. Many species of woodpeckers excavate a nest per season. It takes about a month to finish the job.
So… What to do to scare them away?
You should take action as soon as the problem is identified, since woodpeckers are not easily driven away once they have established their territory.
Model owls, the old good scarecrow, snake decoys, pieces of string or colorful rope, windmills, flashing mirrors and aluminum pie pans can be effective at scaring them away.
Repeatedly frightening the bird with sudden loud noises, such as banging on a garbage can lid, hand clapping or a toy cap pistol may keep them away.
3. Sticky substances
Sticky repellents can be smeared onto tree trunks, wood siding, etc. The birds dislike the tacky footing. Since some of the repellents will discolor wood, apply it to pressed board and then fasten it to the damaged area.
4. Water from a hose
Unsurprisingly woodpeckers do not like being sprayed by water from a hose – so if you have a hose that is long enough to spray them with – then this will scare them away!