Woodpeckers are glorious creatures. With varying markings and colors, they can make for a beautiful sight while bird watching.
However, if you live in Oregon during the woodpecker breeding season — from April through June — you may find yourself hastily looking for ways to be rid of the problematic noisemakers. During this time, male woodpeckers attempt to attract a mate by “drumming” on noisy surfaces such as rain gutters, a territorial behavior that can quickly become a nuisance to you and your home.
“Drumming is used by woodpeckers for the same reason songbirds use their song: to communicate to potential mates (females) and to signal the location of their territory to potential rivals (males),” Oregon State University Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology Jim Rivers said. “I have a Northern Flicker in my backyard that routinely drums on my neighbors’ stovepipe each spring and the sound carries quite far.”
Northern Flickers are one of six woodpecker species routinely found in the Corvallis area. The remaining five are the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Acorn Woodpecker.
“I live right in Corvallis in a suburban neighborhood and we have at least four of these species in our (small) backyard, so these birds can often be found right in the middle of human populations,” Rivers said.
A daunting conundrum
If you are unfamiliar with woodpeckers, you may not know that they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act strictly prohibits the killing, harming, or taking of any woodpecker. This includes the use of BB guns and other non-lethal weapons.
The only exception is if a depredation permit is obtained through the Law Enforcement Division of the US Fish and Wildlife Services.According to the USFWS, depredation — damage caused by birds — includes harm to land or property, or threatens human life or other wildlife. In other words, if your local woodpecker is only being a noisy nuisance, extermination is not an option.
Benton County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control is a great resource if you are having issues with a dog, cat, or other domestic animal. However, they do not have the resources to assist with wildlife. Calling them regarding woodpecker control will only take time away from assisting other calls.
Most Effective Tool —Patience
Because of the strict laws protecting woodpeckers, you may find it difficult to find a solution to their tiresome drumming. Some safe methods include netting— which acts as a barrier between the bird’s beak and the drumming target, visual deterrents such as scare balloons or mirrors, or noise deterrents that mimic the sounds of predators. If your local woodpecker is pecking at your home’s siding versus louder drumming objects, termites or other insects could be the cause, so eliminating the food source should be of great help.
“In most cases, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to stop them from drumming unless one is able to modify the structure to reduce its ability to produce sound. Otherwise, your best bet is to wait a bit until the birds stop drumming as the season progresses,” Rivers said.
For more resources for wild bird education and conservation, visit projectbeak.org.