Watching the variety of birds fluttering around your house is a great way to wile away an afternoon. Seeing the bright plumage of the woodpeckers can be one of the highlights. It's fascinating to watch them peck on trees, their little beaks like spears, cutting through the wood with an ease that seems impossible given their small size. But they stop being fun to look at when they discover that your house has wood too, and they start banging on it with all their might.
Woodpeckers present an interesting challenge. Insects, bats, and assorted vermin can be eradicated from your home with some time and effort, but woodpeckers are a different story. Just when you think they are done with your property, they come back. Just when you think you have found the solution for keeping them away, they seem to grow smarter and find other ways around your obstacles.
So how do you keep woodpeckers from pecking away on your old house?
Woodpeckers will go after your house for many reasons. Sometimes it is as simple as a male woodpecker trying to get the attention of the female -- and in that case, he will soon go away. Bigger problems arise when a woodpecker finds tasty insects lurking underneath siding or near water-damaged windows. Where there is one, there must be more -- or so the woodpecker reasoning goes. And thus the little fellow decides to excavate to find the rest. Once he realizes your home might be a food source, it can be very tough to make him leave.
You can try scare tactics, and those might work for a while. These include loud noises when the birds begin to peck, repellents that are designed to keep them away from the house, and of course, hawk effigies -- woodpeckers will often scramble away at the sight of their loathsome enemy. However, it doesn't take long before these smart little birds realize those deterrents are all bark and no bite, and they come back ready to feast.
The best way to get rid of them is to make your old house an inhospitable place. That means there is no soft wood to peck and no tasty grubs to find. Taking away their playground is essential to protect your house.
Start by working with the problem itself -- which is not the woodpeckers, but rather, the areas they love to peck. All that soft, damaged wood has to go. Replace it with a sturdy, resistant hardwood. While you're at it, target the problem that caused the damage in the first place, so as to prevent it from happening again in a few years.
Then go to work on the places that woodpeckers left their mark. Fill the bored holes with tight-fitting wooden plugs, sanded down to lie flush with the wood. Use a sturdy glue so the woodpecker can't simply pull the plugs out. For smaller holes, turn to epoxy-based wood fillers to create a smooth surface. If there appears to be more damage than you are comfortable with handling, it's time to call in a contractor.
It is imperative to start on this the moment you realize a woodpecker is making himself at home. You want to prevent them from becoming established and associating your home with food and shelter. If you can avoid that association, you will have a much easier time of sending the woodpeckers back to the trees, where they belong.