Virginia.gov

Woodpeckers

  • State protected non-game species and protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Cannot destroy or harm.
  • In Virginia it is illegal to:
    • molest or destroy a woodpecker nest and/or eggs. § 29.1-521.
    • trap any woodpecker § 29.1-530
    • kill a woodpecker anytime §§ 29.1-100, 29.1-513
    • poison any animal (including woodpecker) on your property. 4VAC15-40-50
  • It is a Federal offense to:
    • possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship a Red-cockaded woodpecker since it is an endangered species (Endangered Species Act)
    • possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any woodpecker or woodpecker part since they are classified as a migratory species. (Migratory Bird Treaty Act)

Woodpeckers are usually a nuisance when they are banging on a gutter or house siding. In the spring, especially, these birds can be quite the drummers as they ring out their invitation for a mate or warn other males that they have staked out a territory. Whenever a woodpecker becomes a problem, the first thing every homeowner should do is have their house inspected for insect infestations. Sometimes woodpeckers are pecking through your wood siding to feed on grubs, termites, carpenter ants or carpenter bee larvae. If you are sure there is no insect infestation, then it's a strong bet that the male woodpecker is just showing off!

There are four species of woodpeckers that are the usual culprits here. The downy, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers are the smallest of the four and can cause damage, but not nearly to the extent that Virginia's largest woodpecker, the pileated woodpecker, can. At just over 16 inches tall, this bird can cause extensive damage to wood-sided houses. The solutions below are useful for all woodpecker species.

  • Attach one end of several 3-foot pieces of metallic ribbon (or metal pie pans suspended by string) around the eaves of the house where the woodpecker is banging. Leave the lower end of the ribbon to flap in the wind. The reflective ribbon scares the bird away.
  • Place a fake owl or rubber snake strategically near the edge of the roof where the woodpecker is pecking. You must move the owl/snake periodically, however, or the woodpeckers will become accustomed to its presence and ignore it.
  • Scaring the bird with a loud noise or water hose can be effective. Residents will have to be persistent using this method. If time allows, continue this behavior each time pecking begins and eventually the woodpecker will give up for the season.

Eight different members of the woodpecker family (Picidae) can be found in the Commonwealth of Virginia. One species, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), currently is classified as a federal and state endangered species and occurs only in a few restricted areas in the extreme southeastern part of the state. The other members of the woodpecker family that occur in Virginia include the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), the Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). All of these birds except the sapsucker are considered to be resident species, which means they do not migrate from Virginia to other distant habitats to over-winter or to engage in breeding activities.