It was 5 am on a spring day when we first heard him. He beat our alarm, so I wasn’t thrilled. Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. Annoying. Sporting my nightgown, I found him pecking away inside a decorative cornice on the exterior of our home. The builder in his infinite wisdom (and thin wallet) had chosen to install styrofoam cornices, not concrete, and this little fella had made his hole, hit concrete block, and was now determined to create a ruckus. After careful inspection around our home, I realized there were three such holes. And this was the impetus of my research on woodpeckers — why they peck and how to get Mr. Woodpecker to move along.

Food, Sex and a Nest

Much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s all about very basic requirements. Woodpeckers forage for insects by drilling into wood for beetles and other pests. Since my cornices weren’t wood, that ruled out food. Woodpeckers also make that annoying drumming noise, sometimes to attract a mate and other times to say this is my territory. Since the styrofoam didn’t initially make much of a sound, bird sex was ruled out. Lastly, woodpeckers are cavity-nesting birds that require a hollowed-out nesting site and they’ll typically dig a deep hole to protect their future offspring. Great, that meant Mr. Woodpecker was getting ready to build a nest for Mrs. Woodpecker. Or, maybe it was a collaborative effort — who knew?

Solution Mode

An acquaintance suggested a grim solution, but I reminded him of the Migratory Bird Act and that violations could result in a fine or me sitting a cool, damp jail cell. Besides that, I have a soft heart and believe that woodpeckers are beautiful creatures to be admired. I simply wanted to do my admiring at another location. So, one-by-one, I followed a series of potential deterrent solutions.

Reflective Tape

Adding reflective, swaying objects in the area where the woodpeckers are pecking is allegedly supposed to frighten them away. I purchased holographic bird tape, cut strips, and hung them on every fourth cornice. Luckily it was the holidays, so passerby thought we were being festive. Outcome: Mr. Woodpecker was not frightened; he created a hole one cornice away.

Covered the Hole

Next, we filled the holes with cement compound and touched it up with paint. Hey, if it looks new, maybe he’ll be deterred. Outcome: Mr. Woodpecker created a hole four feet away.

Garden Hose

At this juncture, I resorted to scare tactics. I sprayed the hole with a jet of water from a garden hose every time I knew he was in the hole or poked his head out. Outcome: I got wet and Mr. Woodpecker ducked, not deterred.

Nerf Gun

Tempted by the earlier grim suggestion, I instead purchased a Nerf gun. With fond memories of Nerf gun wars with my kids, I knew the foam darts wouldn’t hurt the bird, but might just do the trick at scaring him away. Armed with my Nerf-N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster, I waited for his head to appear. My weapon of choice purported to fire darts up to 90 feet and rapid-fire six foam darts. Outcome: Although he left the hole twice, he returned when I left and I spent an inordinate amount of time gathering darts in the bushes.

Bird-B-Gone Repellant

After additional research, I discovered Bird-B-Gone gel repellant and that a similar repellant is often used by businesses that specialize in deterring woodpeckers and other birds, but at a spendy quarterly-service price. The gel earned four stars on Amazon and the Q&A indicated that they don’t like the smell, so they stay away. So, we filled the holes with the clear gel and applied a little bit on each cornice for good measure. Outcome: Mr. Woodpecker decided to leave and build a nest elsewhere, but a black bird wasn’t deterred and took over the humble abode. Sigh.

Summer is now here and the blackbird has left. The hole has been filled and repainted. For now, I’ve lost the war and await next spring when the rat-a-tat-tat returns. I’m in the Pacific Northwest now and as I was writing this post, spotted this Pileated Woodpecker on a snag in the woods. Not to worry Mr. Woodpecker, you’re where you should be.

Product links in this post are to assist readers. North of 52 receives no compensation for these products.

1 Comment

  1. We had a woodpecker that did the same and it was a real pain because it broke through to the wood stud. They are beautiful but a nuisance when they don’t understand the difference between a house and a tree.


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