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Pest Information

Downy Woodpecker

  • Latin Name: Dendrocopos pubescens
  • Common Name: Downy Woodpecker
  • Other Names: N/A

Pest Details

Origin:

This is a native bird in North America and is one of the most common species of woodpecker, ranging from Alaska across southern Canada and throughout all of the U.S.

Biology:

This common bird may be one the woodpeckers seen most often in urban areas, particularly those near hardwood forests and woodlands. It readily visits feeders in home yards. While they will eat some fruit, seeds, and sap from trees their primary food is insects, particularly larvae of beetles under bark. Mating occurs in the spring and a clutch of 4-5 eggs is laid. Hatchlings are mature enough to leave the nest in about 1 month. Damage to structures is possible and usually occurs during mating season in the spring. Holes may be drilled into wood to store acorns or to create a cavity for nesting. Further annoyance comes from “drumming”, a woodpecker’s method for communication, and is most common in the spring when associated with mating activities. Drumming is done by a rapid series of pecks on a surface that will create a loud sound, and metal surfaces such as rain gutters, chimney caps, metal flashing and others are often chosen for their loud resonance. Utility poles are often selected as sites for storing food or for nesting and serious damage can occur over time.

Identification:

This is a medium-sized bird about 7 inches long and with a wingspan that may be 12 inches. It has a very short bill. The color of the feathers on the chest, belly, and back is white to light grayish. The wings are black with rows of white spots. White bands extend across the sides of the head below and above the eye, and males have a red patch on the back of the head.

Characteristicts Important to Control:

Woodpeckers are classified as migratory, non-game animals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and often further protected under state or provincial laws. They cannot be harmed without specific permission from regulatory and wildlife agencies and only then with good reason for doing so. For long term management exclusion is the preferred option, installing physical materials that prevent the birds from accessing favored sites for nesting or drumming. This includes the use of bird netting under the eaves of structures or sloped plastic or metal barriers that prevent the birds from landing and gripping the side of the structure. The birds prefer to drill in wood that is not painted or covered with a finish, and surface coatings may help to discourage them. Various kinds of fright devices may have a temporary effect to scare birds away, but the birds typically become accustomed to the devices and ignore them. Repellents, according to University resources, will be generally ineffective. Sticky repellents can be applied to valuable trees or to wood surfaces if they are not going to cause any other negative effects.

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