Drumming or pecking is the behavior that woodpeckers are famous for; hence their name. So why do woodpeckers peck wood? The sound of drumming is like a beautiful song in nature when you go hiking up on the mountain. Things hit differently when woodpeckers do the same thing to trees in your lawn or yard. It is natural for woodpeckers to peck wood and other things, and here are the reasons why they do so.
Reason #1: Building A Nest
Woodpeckers peck wood in breeding or nesting seasons to create a nest where they can live in. This is more common in spring when woodpeckers are the most active and loud. These chiseling birds create a hole in the tree so that their mates can lay their eggs in. Once the woodpeckers finish building a nest, they also peck some more as a warning sign. It is simply to let other woodpeckers in the area know that the nest that they just built is theirs.
Reason #2: Communication
These birds are not vocal which means the chance of meeting a woodpecker that sings is below zero. So instead of tweeting, woodpeckers drum the trees to make a loud tapping sound that can travel quite far. As solitary birds, pecking on the wood is more like a way to announce their territory among other woodpeckers. At the same time, the tapping sound that they make also functions as a defense mechanism. A loud noise like this can easily ward off predators and rivals from harming or entering their boundaries.
Reason #3: Find A Mate
Since males are the ones who build the nests, pecking is a courtship ritual to attract a mate to visit. By pecking, a male woodpecker sends a message to other females around that the nest is ready. If a female finds the nest interesting, she will agree to mate and live with him. As monogamous, woodpeckers mate for life. The couple will prepare the nest after they get together and take turns to care for the eggs.
Reason #4: Looking For Food
Woodpeckers feed on insects like beetles, beetle larvae, caterpillars, and many other things they can find. Because some of their favorite meal hide within the tree, woodpeckers have to find ways to reach those delicious meals that live in trees. This is actually a good thing because they help to control the insect and pest population from trees. Woodpeckers will not stop chiseling the trees unless they find juicy bugs for breakfast. The downside is the loud noise that woodpeckers make when they peck on trees. Apart from those, some species known as sapsucker woodpeckers feed on sap from trees. Even so, they still peck holes on tree barks to get to the sap so the noise is still there.
Do Woodpeckers Kill Trees?
Woodpeckers don’t kill trees right away, but they can cause certain damages that can lead to their death. When woodpeckers choose a certain tree to peck on daily, it could lead to some problems. The common damages that woodpeckers cause which can kill trees are from sapsucker woodpeckers, the only woodpecker species that actually kill trees. When these woodpeckers drill holes in the bark to remove the sap, it resembles a process known as girdling. The trees that sapsucker woodpeckers choose will have wounds that are prone to damages from diseases and other organisms. This woodpecker species select certain trees to feed on, so sometimes many other nearby trees remained untouched. However, it is important to know that common woodpeckers don’t dig cavities in or damage healthy trees. Most of them only peck at wood infested with ants or other insects that they can feed on.
Why Do Woodpeckers Peck On Houses?
These beautiful birds are not picky when it comes to pecking on things. Trees are just one among the things that they use their daily activity with because there are more. According to All About Birds, there are a few reasons why woodpeckers peck on houses.
- Feeding: Meals for woodpeckers are not only in trees but also in wooden areas in the house. There are certain parts in the house that have ants, bees, or termites that woodpeckers find tasty. So if you notice that a woodpecker starts to peck on parts of your house, this can be the reason. It is a good thing if you don’t mind because the woodpeckers help to get rid of those insects. If you don’t like it, you might want to eliminate those insects by yourself to avoid hearing the pecking noise.
- Food Storage: Woodpeckers often use trees as food storage for winter, but sometimes they need more. Acorn woodpeckers, specifically, pecks multiple holes in houses and trees to store a single fresh acorn in each of them. This problem is more common in the West where acorn woodpeckers live in. So if you live in the west and you start finding holes, it is possible that acorn woodpeckers are responsible for those.
- Territory Expansion: It is true that woodpeckers live in trees, but it doesn’t mean that it is enough for them. Some woodpeckers also expand their territory further in the areas near their nesting trees. Even if they don’t build a nest inside your house, their pecking noise serves as an announcement to others nearby. When that happens, you will also know that your house has now become a woodpecker’s territory.
Damage Caused By Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers don’t always peck on woods, so sometimes they cause more damages to other things around them also. There are some common damages that woodpeckers often create which include:
- Household Damages: Woodpeckers can also damage roof and window frames which can be a serious problem. If there are holes on the roof, there will be leaking when the rain comes which is not pleasant at all. Even worse, those damages can allow water to go through which can lead to fungus and mold. When these things grow inside the wood, it causes your roof or window frames to rot away.
- Metal Drumming: As I mentioned, woodpeckers peck more than just trees. These birds also pick on metal items around the house such as chimney caps, drainpipes, gutters, plumbing vents, and TV antennas. The damages that they cause is one thing, but the noise from their pecking is another annoying thing.
- Siding Holes: Trees like cedar and redwood are the home to wood-boring insects that woodpeckers love to eat. In summer, these drilling birds peck trees for larvae that they can feed on. Because they are good detectors, woodpeckers can also track the insect movement underneath the tree. Then they will peck through the siding of the tree to catch the insects. You can tell by several holes in horizontal and straight lines in the panel siding of the trees.
- Wooden Fencing: Sometimes a woodpecker may peck at parts of the house or wooden fencing. This is actually a sign that shows that you may have ants, termites, or other bugs there. It could be a good thing to know so that you can eliminate those insects on time. However, it could be bad if you realize it too late and the damages start to appear.
How To Repair Damages From Woodpeckers
Don’t worry if woodpeckers cause damages to your property or trees because there are solutions for those. The good thing is that fixing those damages can also help to prevent woodpeckers from causing more damages. It is just another way to declare your own territory to them, so they will move away eventually. More than that, it is better to cover the damages as soon as possible to prevent it from getting more serious.
1. Roof Shingles
Sometimes woodpeckers cause cracks or holes in roof shingles, but it is repairable. You will need wood putty to apply to the holes to seal and prevent them from further damage. In case the woodpeckers cause big damages, it is better to replace the shingles on the roof. If things are more serious, you will need to replace the roof. New roofs or shingles no longer have pecking sites, so it can discourage the woodpeckers from coming back also.
2. Siding Holes
You can easily fix siding holes on the fence or wall by using epoxy putty with just a few steps. Pick a warm day to repair the siding holes, and you will need a putty knife for this process. Mix the epoxy resin with hardening putty then spread the mix over the siding holes. Keep spreading until you completely cover the holes, and scrape away the excess parts. Air dry and sand it, then paint the area with the same color to match with the rest.
To repair damages on trees, there are a few things that you need including dish soap and warm water. Mix one or two teaspoons of liquid dish soap with one cup of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution into tree holes to flush out pathogens from the woodpecker’s beak. Then rinse the holes out with water from a garden hose to wash away the solution that you sprayed. After that, nail shut the holes with a piece of hardware cloth or window screen. This is to prevent woodpeckers from doing more damages to the tree. Let the tree heals completely before removing the cover that you nailed to it.
Woodpeckers are actually amazing and hardy birds with fascinating traits among the others. It is common to have woodpecker problems in some areas, but there are many easy ways to deal with those. These birds do more good than bad because they feed on destructive wood pests and harmful insects. If you don’t mind sharing the territory with them, ignore these pretty birds when they chisel the nearby trees sometimes.