How to Fix and Prevent Damage From Woodpeckers

Updated on May 2, 2019
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I am an avid self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.


Fixing the damage that woodpeckers cause to your home or trees can be a full-time job. If you are lucky, the woodpeckers that frequent your yard will fill their day by hitting their powerful beaks into tree trunks to find insects, making a nest, or attempting to attract a mateā€”all away from your manicured trees or house. However, if they find your house or trees appealing, the joy of bird-watching soon could become an annoying and costly problem.

Checking for Woodpecker Damage

If you hear repeated tapping and pecking noises against your house or roof, you can assume a woodpecker is making himself known. However, it is also time for you to look for any damage that this tapping bird may be causing. If you see long, straight holes appearing in your wood or synthetic siding, it's time for repair and damage control.

One piece of advice: Since woodpeckers are looking for insects, you have to assume they have found the same in your siding. Thus, before you repair the damage that a woodpecker has caused, it would be wise to check for insects, particularly termites.

Keeping Woodpeckers off Your House

If woodpeckers are creating holes in your house or deck, you have to be prepared for the possibility of them deciding to set up residence in some area of your home. Here are some simple ways to keep these birds from either nesting or creating holes in your house, porch, or deck.

  1. Use a few wind chimes around your home. Hopefully, the continuous noise will frighten the woodpeckers away and keep them from setting up house.
  2. Anything that will flash or reflect light will create an unfriendly environment for the woodpecker. One example could be a spinning pinwheel.
  3. Hang a fake owl or hawk on your home where woodpeckers frequent. If it looks real, it may scare them off.
  4. If you have a dead tree in your yard, you can hang a suet feeder on the dead tree to draw the woodpeckers away from the home. I had one such tree, and it did help.
  5. Some have found reflective tape to be a good deterrent. You just hang the tape from the windows or outside beams and let it blow in the wind. The birds will see a reflection, hear the noise, and fly away. This tape is good for the garden as well.

Watching woodpeckers is great fun, but the damage that they can cause is not. Granted, you may have to experiment to see what works for your problem. In fact, you may have to try several types of defensive deterrents at once to get the results you want.

Keeping them off your house can help prevent damage. But sometimes, the woodpecker does not get the hint, and then it is repair time.

Repairing Wood Siding Damaged by Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are more attracted to redwood and cedar siding over other woods, as well as stained trim wood over painted wood. Whichever you may have, you still need to fix the damage. If you have holes in your siding or deck, here is a simple way to repair the damage:

  1. Use lightweight structural adhesive epoxy putty.
  2. Apply the structural adhesive epoxy putty liberally over the holes so that it sinks in.
  3. Scrape the excess epoxy off before it dries.
  4. Sand the epoxy across the wood's surface so it blends in with the wood with light grade sandpaper.
  5. Apply stain or paint after sanding. Note: If you are planning on painting, leave the epoxy slightly rough so that the paint will more easily cover it.

Repairing Tree Damage Caused by Woodpeckers

Most woodpeckers will leave healthy trees alone and scavenge dead trees for insects. However, the sapsucker woodpecker forages in a different method for its food.

It is a known fact that the sapsucker woodpecker can and does cause a lot of damage to trees. Why? It has no interest in dead wood like other woodpeckers, but prefers instead the sap of a live tree. In fact, the sapsucker will continue to forage on the tree, eating the sap and the insects that are attracted to the sap of the tree, until it kills it.

Then comes the added problem as the sap begins to ooze from the tree. The succulent scent of the sap will draw insects, porcupines, and squirrels, further compromising the tree.

Thus, it is important that you repair the damage before disease or other animals become attracted to the sap seeping from the tree.

  1. Before making repairs to the tree, you should check to see if there is any bug infestation. If there is, identify the bug, and spray to kill the bugs to protect the tree.
  2. Clean the tree with liquid dish soap and water wherever the holes may be on the tree. Once the areas on the tree are cleaned, let the open air heal the damage.
  3. You can wrap the area with burlap, and tape with duct tape to protect the area.
  4. Some people have found success using a sticky repellent like Tanglefoot Bird Repellent around the area or even deer repellent like Plantskydd to discourage additional feeding on the taped area.

Since I like to see the woodpeckers around my house, I'm not one who really likes to use a sticky repellent. But deer repellent does work.

Sometimes it takes a little work to coexist with a woodpecker, but it is doable. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of needing repairs, I hope my suggestions will help.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • How do you treat woodpecker damage to a red maple tree?

    1. If the tree has bugs around the woodpecker holes you will need to get control of the bugs.

    2. Once bugs are under control, wash the holes with liquid dish soap. Then wash off soap with water.

    3. Keep an eye on the holes for the next three months to see how it is healing.

    4. To keep woodpeckers from returning you can place sticky repellent sheets or tinfoil around the area of the damage.

  • What material would you use to repair a hole in a foam column caused by a woodpecker?

    I would fill the hole with spray foam insulation.


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