Why woodpeckers pound on your house

Last Updated: 
February 19, 2003

CORVALLIS - A maddening "thwack thwack thwack" on the side of your house may often signal the presence of woodpeckers. Why do woodpeckers pound on the sides of buildings?

Woodpeckers might be drilling in your house for several reasons, according to Jeff Picton, director of the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Corvallis, and Nancy Allen, an Oregon State University Extension wildlife instructor.

Woodpeckers will drill in decaying wood looking for prey. If they are pecking in multiple places on the side of your house or outbuildings, it might mean you have an insect infestation. Check it out. If you have an infestation, replace the affected wood.

They might be trying to use the siding on your building to cache food or to make nests or roosting sites. Woodpeckers prefer dead wood and that is what your house is made of. Plug any holes these birds make as soon as possible. In the spring, wait for baby woodpeckers to leave the nest (fledge) before sealing holes.

Or they may be using the side of your house to "drum," or proclaim their territories. They drum on metal gutters as well as wooden siding. Woodpeckers usually return to the same location to drum on a regular basis.

To keep woodpeckers from playing percussion on your house, find a way to muffle their sounds. Try covering the drumming site with foam or placing netting out several inches from the building to keep them away from it. You might also hang strips of foil or cloth near the drumming site to scare them away. Removing perch areas helps. And making noise or squirting the birds with water might also help keep them away, said Picton.

Another way to keep woodpeckers away from human structures is to provide habitat for them elsewhere. Leaving dead trees (snags) standing on your property may tempt them away from the house, because woodpeckers instinctively use snags for feeding and to create cavities for nesting. If there is a concern about the safety of keeping a dead tree up in your yard, have the snag topped and trimmed so it will be less likely to fall over.

Many other birds and animals such as squirrels, owls, bluebirds and wood ducks use the tree cavities for nesting and roosting once woodpeckers leave.

Keep in mind that woodpeckers are very helpful to humans because they help control forest insect populations including carpenter ants and wood boring beetles.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Nancy Allen, Jeff Picton