Woodpeckers can be annoying with their hammering and drumming on houses. They can also damage structures by drilling holes in wood siding and eaves.
Generally, woodpeckers peck at houses for one of three reasons – to attract a mate or proclaim territory, to seek or store food (insects in the wood or acorn storage), or to try to create a nest in the side of a building.
Drumming is a form of woodpecker communication. It usually occurs during the spring mating season and usually does not do any damage, thought admittedly, it can be annoying at 5am to be awakened by a woodpecker outside your bedroom window! Metallic or wooded surfaces used for drumming may be wrapped or covered with cloth or foam. An alternative tapping site or surface such as a wooden box or metal cylinder hung in a less annoying location may be considered.
If insects are the attraction, the birds have done the homeowner a service. Fix the insect infestation problem and the woodpeckers will move on.
Acorn woodpeckers drill holes to store acorns for the winter, often in late summer and early fall. They traditionally use old dead snags for this purpose and return to the same tree year after year, generation after generation. If humans remove their "granary tree" and replace it with a house, guess what the birds will use as their new granary? Leaving or erecting an old snag somewhere in the yard may encourage them to use that instead of the house.
Scaring woodpeckers may be successful if started promptly. Scaring the woodpeckers from the house or area relies upon the bird's response to danger or unpleasant experiences. Spray the woodpecker with water from a garden or high-pressure water hose.
Light pie plates and metal can lids can be suspended on a string. One end of the string can be near a convenient window or door where the line can be jerked whenever the bird appears.
Attach string to the ends of aluminum foil strips cut two to three inches in width and two to three feet in length and hang from damaged or tapping sites.
Pinwheels with reflective vanes may be attached at tapping or damaged sites. These must rotate in order to be a deterrent.
Models or silhouettes of snakes, owls or hawks may be the least effective unless they are hung to move in the breeze and/or in conjunction with playing recorded calls of birds of prey.
Cover the site with plastic or nylon netting or hardware cloth. Permanent installation of hardware cloth or other screening may be the best solution when woodpeckers make repeated attempts over several years to make holes or nests.
Placing a woodpecker house over the area if the bird is interested in nesting may encourage the bird to stop creating another hole.
**NOTE: All woodpeckers are migratory non-game birds protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A property owner needs a federal permit to use any lethal control, and violators are subject to penalties and fines.