Why Woodpeckers Peck

The first step in preventing woodpecker damage is understanding why woodpeckers peck.

Did you know there are over 120 species of woodpeckers worldwide? They can be found on virtually every continent and range in size, color, tendencies, and habitat. As different as they may appear to be, they all share one thing in common; pecking (also known as drumming) trees for food, storage, nesting, and mating/territory. These birds typically target dead or dying trees. However, they will target living trees if they’re looking to eat the tree’s sap.

From time to time these birds go rogue and decide to use peoples’ homes, properties, and desirable trees for the aforementioned purposes. That’s where I’m going to help you. With the use of a good woodpecker deterrent, we can persuade these birds to return to their natural habitat and leave you alone for good!

Please feel free to leave a comment below with any questions you may have.

Below are the 4 main reasons why woodpeckers peck:


  • Food:

Despite what many people think, woodpeckers do not actually eat wood. Their diet consist mostly of insects such as termites, grubs, bees, and ants. However, depending on the time of year, they have been known to eat nuts, berries, acorns, fruit, seeds, and tree sap. They also love woodpecker suet cakes if you’re kind enough to feed it to them.

Since woodpeckers love to eat wood boring insects such as termites, it’s easy to understand why they would peck on your wood siding if there is a bug infestation. Although these birds can do quite a bit of damage to the side of your house, they may be doing you a big favor if there are termites feeding off it. They are incredibly intelligent birds and can actually hear the termites inside the wood. When searching for food, they typically make several closely grouped holes in the siding in an attempt to locate the bugs.

Here is a video of a woodpecker making these types of holes. Notice that the holes are just small enough for him to get his beak into the wood to retrieve the bugs. If you look closely, you can actually see him feeding on the insects:


Call a local exterminator to inspect your house for termites or any other insects that could be damaging your home!


Below is an example of a yellow-bellied sapsucker drilling holes in a tree to extract its sap:




  • Storage:

Woodpeckers, primarily Acorn Woodpeckers, have been known to create holes in wood to store food. They do this during the warmer months in preparation for winter. Storing the food high up in trees and houses allows the birds to have a predictable food supply during the winter. This eliminates the need to forage the snow covered ground.

Below is a video of a woodpecker making holes and storing acorns in a tree:




  • Nesting

Woodpeckers don’t always just peck for food, they often peck to create nesting cavities. These birds have the ability to burrow deep inside a tree or house where it can escape predators and stay warm. You will know if a woodpecker is pecking your house for shelter rather than food if it is making large holes that it can fit into. If these birds are pecking your house for shelter, it is paramount that you acquire a quality woodpecker birdhouse to give them an alternate source of shelter.

Here is a video of a woodpecker making a nesting cavity in a house with wood siding. Notice how much larger the hole is than the ones made above for food purposes. The woodpecker is making a hole large enough to fit its entire body into:



Woodpeckers also love making nesting cavities in stucco because of the easily removable surface and Styrofoam. Once they dig out the cavity, the Styrofoam provides a soft, warm liner for their nest. Here is a video of a woodpecker making a nesting cavity in stucco:




  • Mating/Territory

The final reason why woodpeckers peck (drum) is for mating and territorial reasons. They peck on various surfaces to communicate with other woodpeckers. This is done to assert their dominance or attract a mate. Both males and females participate in drumming.

Here is a video of a woodpecker drumming on a roof vent. Notice that unlike the other reasons for pecking, this is done solely to create sound:



Now that you understand the 4 reasons why woodpeckers peck, choose the appropriate woodpecker deterrent to prevent them from doing further damage.

I will also teach you how to repair woodpecker damage that you may already have.

Please feel free to leave comments below!

12 thoughts on “Why Woodpeckers Peck”

  1. I just saw a northern flicker pecking at the mortar at the top of my chimney. Not the mortar between the bricks, but the mortar sealing the chimney pots. Is this behavior the drumming type of pecking? There is no metal up there so the sound does not reverberate. Do flickers need grit the way other birds do for digestion? Thanks for any help you can give me with this question.

    • I have personally never experienced this type of behavior with woodpeckers before but that’s not to say that it’s not possible. This may be a better question for an Ornithologist.

  2. Hi! I have a few suet cake holders and I usually keep them stocked. We have many woodpeckers that eat from them and I enjoy watching them, and the other birds as well. I’ve noticed before that I thought they may be drilling on the house. It was always once and then a month or so later. I might here it once. I never saw them do it though so I didn’t know for sure it was them. This time I heard it and it stopped when I went by the window. I heard it again and actually caught the little bugger in the action. I went out and noticed that the dirt cakes were moldy ? I replaced them with new ones, but I was wondering, will they drill the house when they need food? Are they yelling at me? Telling me I need to get my butt out there and get them new food?

  3. I have a woodpecker (or a few) that are pecking through screens covering the vent holes just below my roof. My siding is not made of wood it feels like some kind of plastic. There is actually a family of woodpeckers of different sizes that I put suet out for feed. But I do hear one pecking daily and its January and cold here in Central Oregon. I don’t want them nesting in the attic and reproducing. HELP!

    • Contrary to popular belief, most woodpeckers are non-migratory. They will hang around all winter and wreak havoc on homes!

      If you are going to feed them suet, I recommend you place the suet feeder as far as possible from your house to deter them coming near it. Furthermore, provide a woodpecker house for them so that they have both food and shelter. There will be no reason for them to venture over to your home!

      If this doesn’t work, my favorite woodpecker deterrent are woodpecker repellent discs. They are by far the best value and one of the most effective means of getting rid of woodpeckers.

  4. I live in S. Florida and my neighborhood has a widespread nesting issue. Sixteen of the fifty houses have at least one nesting hole dug out of stucco trim below the 2nd story roofline. At least twenty homes have set up one or more plastic owls in the line of sight of these nests with little success. I can’t tell you how many woodpeckers are actually causing the damage but I have seen pairs working together. Any thoughts on a community solution to this widespread issue.

    • Hi Jim,

      I’m sorry to hear about the woodpecker problem plaguing your community. This is a situation I’ve dealt with firsthand so I know just how frustrating it can be.

      Although commonly referred to as “stucco,” I’m sure the actual material you’re referring to is an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS). Unlike traditional cement stucco, EIFS is comprised of several layers including Styrofoam which is what the Woodpeckers are ultimately after. This material, once excavated, provides an ideal nesting environment. They will burrow deep into the Styrofoam in order to protect their young from predators.

      The most likely reason you see them working in pairs is because both parents assist in the excavation of the nesting hole.

      It’s really difficult to propose a solution on a community level outside of repainting all of the homes with woodpecker deterrent paint such as Beakguard.

      My honest opinion is to tackle the problem on a home by home basis with the use of an electronic woodpecker repellent and/or bird repellent discs. Both of these products have outstanding track records and should assist your community with getting rid of woodpeckers.

      I do advise that the community implement these deterrents in unison otherwise birds may defect from one house to another.

      This truly is an unfortunate situation but one that’s not impossible to overcome!

      If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask!

  5. It certainly is annoying! These little buggers can cause lots of damage, sound, and frustration!

    This site is solely dedicated to removing these birds as humanely as possible!

  6. Ha wow this is so great!
    I am actually one of those people that thought woodpeckers actually ate wood! Thank you for setting me straight on this matter. It must be very annoying to have woodpeckers pecking at your house like that.
    I look forward to seeing more about this.
    Thanks so much, Kris

  7. Very interesting info, I never knew this. I think that woodpecker drumming on the roof vent was just doing it to annoy the occupants of that home.
    I didn’t know that they pecked or drummed to communicate with one another. There are a lot of woodpeckers where I live so I’ll have to listen for them, next time I’m outside.

    • Haha, while the occupants will definitely find it to be annoying, this isn’t the main reason why they do it.

      Drumming is exclusively to communicate dominance and territory. Whenever you hear them banging away on a metallic object, you’ll know why now.

      It’s similar to a gorilla beating on his chest or a dog marking his territory. These woodpeckers are telling everyone to get away from their area!


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