Natural History

Is it a home invasion?! No, just the Woodpecker knocking on our siding.

What to do when your neighbors are tapping at your door and you just want them to go away? This is such a ubiquitous problem with woodpeckers that there are teams of scientists out there trying to find both the reason and the solution.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology studied 1,400 homes in Ithaca, New York to learn what attracted the woodpeckers. The obvious reasons included infestations of ants, carpenter bees, termites or other insects. However, there was also a preference for darker colored and wood-sided homes. So, if this is a problem, using a light-colored aluminum siding is the way to go. Barring that as an option, other scare tactics were tested.

Of six deterrents attempted, only one seemed to have any impact. The woodpeckers became quite used to the plastic owl, the plastic eyes on a fishing line, and the distress calls of woodpeckers. Trying to temp them with a suet feeder or roost box was equally ineffective. However, hanging reflective streamers appeared to be somewhat successful most of the time.

These streamers blow in the wind and seem to be enough to discourage woodpeckers from their task. The streamers are a fairly simple, inexpensive solution, which, coupled with suet feeders, may be the answer to a frustrating problem for homeowners. Of course, if your neighbor is not a woodpecker, streamers may not make them go away!