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Bird Biology

Woodpeckers are a member of the Piciformes order and the family Picidae. "Woodpeckers have short legs with two sharp-clawed, backward-pointed toes and stiff tail feathers, which serve as a supportive prop. These physical traits enable them to cling easily to tree trunks, wood siding, or utility poles, while pecking." Woodpeckers have stout, sharply pointed beaks and a "specially developed long tongue that can be extended for a long distance." The average size of a woodpecker is 7 to 15 inches in length, and usually have brightly contrasting coloration. Most males will have red on the head.

Woodpeckers are dependent on trees for food and shelter, and usually will nest in or on the edge of wooded areas. Woodpeckers nest in cavities that have been chiseled into tree trunks, structures, or pre-existing cavities.

General Biology:
It is commonly known that woodpeckers peck into wood. They do this for a several reasons; (1)in search of food; (2)mating call; (3)nest building; (4) food storage. A common misconception is that woodpeckers only peck for food. "Woodpeckers have characteristic calls, but they also use a rhythmic pecking sequence to make their presence known. This is known as "drumming" which establishes their territories and attracts mates. Woodpeckers breed in the spring time, laying about 3 to 6 eggs. The incubation process lasts about 11 to 14 days. Most woodpeckers are born naked. Both male and female woodpeckers take care of the young. Woodpeckers usually lay 2 to 3 sets of eggs each year. "Some species, such as the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) and the redheaded woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) are migratory, however, most woodpeckers live year round in one location.

The most common damage caused by woodpeckers is the defacing holes that they create in structures, homes, and utility poles. One woodpecker could do thousands of dollars worth of damage to a structure, all because the woodpecker is establishing his territory.

Legal Status:
"Woodpeckers are classified as migratory, non-game birds and are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Two species of woodpeckers are on the endangered species list. Local and state officials must be consulted prior to attempting elimination of the problem woodpecker.

Damage Prevention:
There really is no way to prevent a woodpecker from pecking at wood siding or the side of a stucco building. Most people notice the damage after the fact. As a preventative measure, netting can be draped from the eve of the structure and used to block the woodpecker from getting access to the siding. The most common way to treat for woodpeckers is by use of frightening devices.

Courtesy of The Wildlife Damage Handbook

Methods of Treatment: