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Do Woodpeckers Kill Trees? (And How to Deter Them)

Do Woodpeckers Kill Trees? (And How to Deter Them)
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Woodpeckers love to sit up in trees and peck the wood. They leave holes and expose trees to damage that can lead to disease and possibly death as well.

If you want your trees to be healthy and survive, it is important to stop the woodpeckers before they hurt the trees.

You will need to get rid of the woodpeckers and then repair the damage to the trees so that you can save them and prevent them from becoming diseased or dying.

What Is a Woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are birds in the family Picidae, and they forage for insects and food on the trunks and branches of trees. They are named for their characteristic behavior of drumming the tree with their beaks as a form of communication.

They nest in the holes that they make in the trees. Their beaks are very strong so that they can drill holes and extract insects and larvae to eat them.

How to Identify Woodpecker Damage to Your Tree

The damage from woodpeckers will normally appear as holes in the tree. Some species make the holes in a straight line, and others make them in clusters, and the holes will generally be small.

If the woodpecker has chosen to nest in this tree, there may be a larger hole where the woodpecker has made its home.

Normally, the woodpeckers are drawn to trees that have food. They eat insects and larvae, so if the woodpecker is living in your tree, you may have an insect problem.

Some types of woodpeckers drill holes to get to the sap in the tree. They also drill holes as a form of communication, to build a nest, or to store food.

If you have woodpeckers living in your tree, you will hear the pecking. It is a repetitive sound and when you look up, you will see the bird in the tree. If you don’t see the woodpecker, you will be able to see the damage.

If the damage is extensive, the tree trunk can become girdled, and the area above the girdled bark can actually die.

How to Prevent Woodpeckers from Damaging Your Tree

The only way to prevent woodpeckers from damaging your tree is to keep them away from the tree. You can try different methods to do this.

For example, people often use bird netting to keep the woodpeckers off the tree. You can also wrap the trunk of the tree in cloth or mesh, which might be necessary if you need to get rid of them.

Another method that people use is to cover the trunk of the tree in a sticky substance, and you can buy products to do this. It deters the woodpeckers from coming to the tree, and it makes it hard for them to land on it.

You can also scare the woodpeckers away with various items. If you use hand mirrors or other reflective objects, it will scare them away. You can also place decoy predators in the tree, such as a plastic owl or hawk.

You can scare them with loud noises, but you will need to repeat this process over and over again, which makes it more difficult to use this method successfully.

You can buy an electronic repellent, which can be a device that plays a recording of a predatory bird’s call, but this is a loud method that may upset your dog or dogs in the neighborhood.

Woodpeckers are protected, so you cannot kill or harm them. Your best bet is to try one of these methods to deter them from making a home in your tree.

How to Repair a Tree from Woodpecker Damage

The first step is to examine your tree and determine how much damage has been done. Sometimes woodpeckers are pecking on a tree, but there is not a lot of damage. Check for holes and note how big they are.

Once you know how much damage your tree has suffered, you can make a plan to repair it. If you only find a few small holes, you do not need to do anything.

As long as the tree is generally healthy, it should be able to heal on its own. Filling in small holes can trap disease inside the tree or harm the tree more than it would help.

You can treat woodpecker holes with a fungicide that will prevent any disease from getting inside the tree while it repairs its wounds.

Check the area often and make sure that you are checking for insects because they will draw woodpeckers back to the tree again. You should also check for a condition called rot, which is a fungus that can harm the tree.

If the woodpecker has done extensive damage to the tree and left large holes behind, you need to treat it with fungicide and cover the damage with galvanized mesh. This is called a hardware cloth, and it can be attached to the tree with small bolts.

You should only cover the damaged areas with the mesh because it could otherwise interfere with the tree growing or harm the tree further. This mesh will help to deter other animals from moving into the tree, and it will protect the tree as it heals from the damage.

How to Deter Woodpeckers

There are a few ways that you can deter woodpeckers from going after your trees. You can try to force them to move somewhere else, or you can redirect them to another location on your property.

Some people enjoy seeing the woodpeckers, but they don’t want them to damage the trees. Others want them altogether gone.

You can redirect the birds in several different ways, including the following:

  • Feeding: You can provide food for the woodpeckers so that they won’t forage for insects in your trees. They like foods such as suet, mealworms, and jelly.
  • Woodpecker houses: If the woodpeckers are nesting in your trees, you can provide them with a nesting house. Make sure it is the right size for the woodpeckers, and you should place the birdhouse near the tree where the birds are pecking. You might even want to hang it in the tree.
  • Drumming location: You can leave a hollow tree or a stump up for the woodpecker to drum.
  • Insect Treatment: If you have an insect problem in a tree or on your house, have a pest control company come to take care of it. Often woodpeckers move in because you have a problem of this kind, so eliminating the problem will remove this food source for the woodpeckers.
  • Repair the holes: You can treat the tree with the methods listed above, such as covering the holes in mesh or using mirrors to deter the woodpeckers.

If you use a combination of these methods, you should be able to redirect the woodpecker away from the tree. However, if this doesn’t work, you may need to relocate the woodpeckers.

In this case, you need to use some of the methods listed above, such as scaring them with loud noises or fake predators, hanging mirrors or other reflective devices, hanging flags or banners that can blow in the wind, or using netting.

You need to remember that if a woodpecker has made a nest in your tree, you cannot remove the eggs. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, and it is against the law to interfere with it.

Do not try to catch or harm the birds for the same reason. If all else fails, you can contact a local wildlife official to help you remove the birds.

Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers are fascinating birds, and they are pretty to look at. They have unique characteristics, but if left unchecked, they can be very destructive.

If you see woodpeckers pecking your tree, you should take action to stop them right away. Otherwise, they can damage the tree and possibly even kill it. If the damage is significant, you may have no choice but to remove the tree.

You should check the damage on your tree to see how bad it is. If it is minor, you can leave it alone, but make sure that you find a way to prevent the woodpeckers from coming back.

If the tree has more extensive damage, you need to treat it. You might need to apply a fungicide, and you might need to cover any wounds. You can also use bird netting to prevent them from returning to the tree.

To keep the woodpeckers away, you can try feeding them and providing them with a woodpecker birdhouse. If you hang it near the tree that they like, you may be able to convince them to move.

If this doesn’t work, you will have to try to frighten them away with some other method. It may work for a little while, but if the damage to the trees is significant and they continue to come back, you may have to call local wildlife officials to help you remove them.