Why is a woodpecker damaging my house and how do I stop it?

Woodpeckers peck at homes for three reasons. First, the fast machine-gun pecking, referred to as "drumming" is the male woodpecker's attempt to make as loud a noise as possible to attract a mate and to announce to other male woodpeckers that this is his territory. Hollow branches are usually used, but a gutter or loose siding sometimes serves as a substitute. Tightening up loose parts of the house may solve that problem. Hanging flashy objects nearby can also scare the woodpeckers away.

The second reason for pecking on homes is the birds' search for insects. If you are seeing holes drilled or chipped away, it may mean you have insects living in your external boards that the woodpecker found. Often, carpenter bees will drill holes into wood and tunnel through, laying eggs that you don't even know are there. Woodpeckers open up the tunnels from the outside and eat the hatched larvae. Attaching an untreated board onto the outside of your house for the bees will provide habitat for valuable pollinator species, and you can replace it as often as needed! Scaring woodpeckers with hanging shiny objects or metallic strips can also discourage them from investigating for insects.

Finally, woodpeckers may find your wood or stucco siding an attractive and easily excavated site for a nest or roost hole.  If the woodpecker seems to be making a round hole big enough for it to enter, you will need to stop this by blocking access to the hole with bird netting, metal flashing, or some other barrier.  But since the bird has decided this is a good place for a nest or roost, it may be hard to get it to leave, in which case it may be easier to install a woodpecker nest box on the side of your house so that it uses the box instead of making holes in your home.  Remember to fill the nest box with wood shavings as they prefer to excavate their own homes.  Click here for a chart of design specifications for nesting and roosting boxes.  Depending on the size of the woodpecker doing the damage, use the box dimensions for a Northern Flicker (robin-sized woodpecker) or a Pileated Woodpecker (crow-sized).