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Downy woodpecker

The Downy woodpecker is common in North America. There are a few reasons why woodpeckers might peck away at a house.

Are woodpeckers drumming at your downspouts or rat-tat-tatting on your home?

They may be trying to attract a mate or proclaim their territory. When woodpeckers are courting, it’s common for them to show their availability through special flight displays, calling or drumming.

They may be searching for food — insects. Woodpeckers love insects, and they could be pecking away at your siding because they think insects are present.

They may be trying to build a nest, although this is not common. Some woodpeckers can hammer nesting holes through siding and insulation. Unfortunately, wood siding and even stucco, can be viewed by flickers as suitable surfaces in which to excavate a cavity. Take two pieces of Styrofoam and rub them together and that’s what DryVit sounds like to a hungry woodpecker, insects.

Whatever the reason, chances are you want to stop them. There are two main ways to do this — scare away the woodpecker or keep him from accessing the area.

To scaring woodpeckers:

Throw a little “cold water” on the woodpecker by spraying him with water from a garden hose.

Hang bright Mylar strips from the area.

Place silhouettes of snakes, owls and hawks near the area so they blow in the breeze. To be most effective, play recorded calls of birds of prey.

To exclude the woodpeckers:

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Cover the area with plastic or nylon netting or install a screen over the area to keep the woodpecker out.

Create an alternative tapping surface such as a wooden box or metal cylinder in a location where the tapping will not annoy you.

Place a woodpecker nest box over the area. If the bird is trying to create a nesting location, he may stop and use the box.

Learning to live with nature can be challenging. With a little effort, we can deter destructive behavior and enjoy woodpeckers; you have to be as tenacious as they are. Happy bird feeding!

Kathy Haigh and her husband, John, own and operate the Wild Birds Unlimited, located in Billings and at She is a Certified Bird Feeding Specialist and is past president of the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society.