Help! A woodpecker is destroying my house. What can I do to get it to stop?

While it's rare, an occasional woodpecker may single out a house for drumming, or worse, for a nest or dining site.

Each spring, when males set up territories and attract their mates, these woodpeckers make their presence known by "drumming." Normally they pick a resonant dead tree trunk. As more homeowners remove dead trees, woodpeckers may turn to metal gutters or house siding.

While drumming may be aggravating, it usually doesn't physically damage your house. You can eliminate the drumming noise by deadening the resonant area. Fill the hollow space with caulk.

You can also try to distract the bird from the drumming site by using scare techniques: balloons, a child's pinwheel, flash tape, strings of shiny streamers, noisy tin can lids, wind chimes, and/or pulsating water sprinklers.

If that doesn't work, create a physical barrier by screening the drumming site with hardware cloth, sheet metal, or nylon "bird netting." A barrier may not look the best, but it will only need to be up until the breeding season ends.

Serious structural damage occurs when woodpeckers drill holes in unpainted, untreated plywood and cedar siding, window frames and roofing. While no one knows for sure what attracts a woodpecker to a house, your first step in eliminating the problem is to check for signs of insect infestation; carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and cluster flies.

Although you may not see evidence of insects, it is possible there is larval activity in the wood. You may want to consult with a licensed pest control operator on how to remove the insects and eliminate future infestations. It may be as simple as caulking their tunnels and painting with exterior latex. If it is determined that there are no insects, try the "scare" techniques listed above to try to get rid of the bird.

In late fall woodpeckers will start to create a winter roosting cavity. If your home is located in an area where dead trees are at a premium, the bird may select your house. Try any of the scare tactics listed above to drive the bird(s) away.

If you have a bird feeder that attracts woodpeckers, you might think removing your feeder will cause the bird to leave. Just the opposite may be true. Keeping a feeder full of suet may encourage the birds not to look at your siding for food.

If you have dead trees in your yard, you might think removing them (and the insects they harbor) will solve woodpecker problems. Again, the opposite may be true. Cutting down dead and decaying trees deprives these birds of nesting, drumming, and food sites and may force them to take a look at your house.