Plant name(s): Maple, birch, fir, pine and other tree species; houses, siding, stucco and other man-made structures
Symptoms / Characteristics:
Woodpeckers drill holes in the side of houses or trees in search for insects or for a place to nest. Loud "drumming" noises can be heard when they are defending their territory or trying to attract a mate. Places such as wooden shingles, metal siding or light posts may be used for "drumming" sites as they produce loud sounds.
Sapsuckers bore numerous holes in trees in search for sap. The holes in the bark are uniformly round or rectangular, ¼" in diameter, and arranged in rings around the trunk. Puncture wounds results in sap to flow down the trunk and onto lower branches.
Birds will usually peck into many trees before finding a suitable site and will stay until the food source is gone. Sapsuckers sometimes use the same tree as a food source for several years.
Control / Preventions:
Inspect trees that have been attacked and determine the extent of damage and if control is desired. Take action as soon as possible because woodpeckers are not easy to get rid of once they are established.
One method of control is the use of visual scaring devices. The scary eye balloon resembles a large owl when blown up and can be hung above the area where damage is occurring. Reflective materials such as reflective pinwheels or aluminum can be hung from branches or objects. Woodpeckers do not like shinning or flashing objects so these objects are used to discourage bird activity. Scaring devices should be left in place for at least three weeks after the damage has ended.
Noisemakers can be used to frighten birds away but need to be used persistently and randomly to be effective. All scaring devices need to alert the bird and if they do not change, birds can become accustomed to them. Damaged areas on trees or other objects can be coated with a sticky repellent material.
Excavated holes can be plugged or covered with reflective material to discourage further bird activity.
Woodpeckers and sapsuckers are protected birds, so lethal control is not permitted.
Relevant web sites:
Hiratsuka, Y. 1987. Forest Tree Diseases of the Prairie Provinces. Canadian Forest Service. University of British Columbia Press. 142 pages.