A WOODPECKER HAMMERING on your roof in the fall is a different animal from the woodpecker that beats a tattoo on it in the spring.
The spring bird is hammering out a romantic love song and trying to attract a mate.
Later, the two may even look upon your home as their home.
It can be a bit trying when one of these birds starts making holes in your house.
One spring, our cabin in the Olympic Peninsula’s rain forest looked like the perfect place for a hairy woodpecker and his mate.
Out of reach
This bird wasn’t any dummy. He drilled the holes (several of them) near the peak of the roof where we couldn’t reach him.
He and his mate didn’t build a nest in the cabin walls, but they hit the mother lode of insects.
Most of that wall ended up as bonfire fodder.
Fall is also famous for woodpecker attacks. Some homeowners with cedar siding or cedar shakes will hear that, “tap, tap, tap.”
Hopefully it will be a small downy at work and not a giant pileated woodpecker.
Woodpeckers find their food by listening for the sound of bugs in trees and wooden structures.
This is the time of the year when all sorts of insects are on people’s minds.
It’s only natural that birds that eat bugs are active right now. From courting crane flies to web-spinning spiders, bugs are everywhere, and some of them are moving into our houses.
Harbingers of doom
Termites and carpenter ants strike fear in the heart of any homeowner when they are discovered.
The rustling of a wasp going into hibernation for the winter may sound like a possible meal to a working woodpecker.
The bird will just have to do a bit of poking and digging to see what it is hearing in your walls or roof.
It’s a good idea for us to do some looking, too. That is the voice of experience speaking.
There are more fun things to do in the fall that burn up siding riddled by carpenter ants or termites.
You probably won’t find any bad bugs, but the problem of the industrious woodpecker remains.
You aren’t a bad person if you don’t want a bird drilling holes in your house. Put your foot down.
If chasing the bird away doesn’t work, try spraying it with a hose. (This isn’t my original idea. It’s been suggested by some of the “experts.”)
Turnabout fair play
You aren’t hurting the bird; you are just frustrating it, and as the bird is frustrating you, turnabout is only fair.
There are some temporary solutions if the bird is attacking a small area.
Sheets of plywood can be fastened over the spot. Heavy plastic as a cover has also met with some degree of success.
Maybe plastic bubble-wrap would work. After all, one whack by the woodpecker met with one cap-like explosion from the bubble wrap just might intimidate the bug-hunter.
One final word on house-hammering woodpeckers — what does not work when it comes to scaring them away.
Plastic owls and rubber snakes may work once, but as anyone who has tried these deterrents knows, the birds wise up fast and go right on with their digging.
When it comes to anti-bird paints or sprays, they don’t exist.
A newly painted house may remain woodpecker-free for a season, but that’s probably because (for the time being) the bugs have also left.
Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected].