Research on Controlling Woodpecker Damage to Homes

Research on Controlling Woodpecker Damage to Homes

Woodpecker

In a 2007 article "Assessment of Management Techniques to Reduce Woodpecker Damage to Homes" published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, Emily G Harding, Paul D. Curtis and Sandra L Vehrencamp provide some interesting information for homeowners struggling with woodpecker damage. Their study took place around Cornell University in the Lakes region of New York. In that part of the country six woodpeckers are commonly implicated in damaging homes namely:

  • pileated woodpecker
  • Northern flicker
  • red bellied woodpecker
  • Harry woodpecker
  • downy woodpecker
  • yellow bellied sapsucker

Interestingly they explain that some researchers found that the average homeowner who suffers from woodpecker damage sustains about $300 worth of damage to his/her home.

It is no surprise that given the damage that woodpeckers cause there are a number of tools and techniques used to control the damage. The problem is little research has been done on the relative effectiveness of these techniques. Their focus was on those techniques that can be left in place rather than something that was temporary, such as spraying the woodpeckers with water. As a side note, their literature review revealed that applying methyl anthranilate to wood is not effective on woodpeckers because woodpeckers don't eat the wood.

For our purposes, I will focus on their findings for the use of Irri-tapeTM Bird Pro sound system with a hawk call, and suet feeders . The point of the suet was to see if offering woodpeckers food would distract them from damaging the house. Unfortunately the study was rather small involving only 16 homes with active woodpecker damage. The results however are still important as they may be helpful for others to determine what their first line of attack should be when woodpecker problem arises.

  • Results were that Irri-tape resolved 50% of the damage complaints where was used. It was by far the most effective device.
  • The suet feeders and Bird Pro sound system placed second and third, respectively.
  • They also observed that earth-tone colored homes were almost twice as likely to suffer damage as pastel or white colored homes regardless of their siding.
  • Their study did not answer the question of whether a more rapid initiation of control would have had better as all these homes had established damage when the study began. Nor did the researchers answer what effect using multiple control techniques would've had on resolving woodpecker damage.

Bottom Line: Irri-tapeTM worked the best. But I want to warn you that in their study, strips were hung every several feet from a rope. Homeowners with high sensitivities to aesthetics may find this problematic.

Stephen Vantassel
Wildlife Damage Management
Stephen M. Vantassel was a Program Coordinator for Wildlife Damage Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Among his many duties, Stephen was responsible for managing the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, http://icwdm.org, the nation’s leading source for research-based wildlife damage information on the web.