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Several different species of woodpeckers live in Missouri and Kansas. During the spring and fall, woodpeckers are heard drumming on a variety of structures including TV antennas, gutters, ornamental trees, and houses.
Typical woodpecker damage includes holes drilled into wood siding of houses or trees. The sap sucking woodpeckers drill several holes in rows, closely spaced apart. In evergreens you will often see sap oozing from the many holes that were drilled. Brushlike bristles on sapsuckers’ tongues enable them to “lap up” sap-coated insects.
There are no apparent reasons why woodpeckers drum on certain objects. They usually choose a few favorite areas and attack repeatedly. The best control of woodpecker damage is prevention. Once holes have been drilled into trees, little can be done to treat the wounds caused by the woodpeckers. Use the following procedure to decide what control to use.
- Check your trees for insects. If insects have invaded your trees, you will have to take the appropriate action to combat them. More than likely it will be a boring insect of some kind. Visit the section on borers for more information.
- See if you can prevent the bird from getting into your trees. Netting can be a good control measure, especially on smaller trees.
- Several repellents can be used to prevent woodpecker damage. Visual repellents such as windmills, pie pans, or strips of brightly colored plastic or aluminum foil can be effective. Aluminum foil strips are an inexpensive way to repel woodpeckers. Suspending two to three foot strips from strings will scare woodpeckers away. Other repellents include sound and using sticky substances. Several sticky substances are on the market, but their use in trees may be limited. They may stain and run during warm weather.
- As a last resort, removal may be an option. Woodpeckers are federally protected migratory species. A federal depredation permit is required before any person can possess or transport migratory birds. A permit is not needed to scare woodpeckers. Once woodpeckers have fled the area, it is important to frequently scout your trees for insects or other signs of stress. As with other stresses to your trees, it is important to maintain adequate water and nutrient levels.
Related Information: Woodpeckers, Urban Wildlife Damage Control; www.oznet.ksu.edu
Lynn Loughary, LLoughar@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Wyandotte County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension