A woodpecker will attack for many reasons. The attack can be for food, shelter or to attract a mate. Eastern Massachusetts is home to many types of woodpeckers. A common type is the Northern Flicker who appears in this video. As the bird climbs over the camera you can see close up the black bib, the black whisker on the cheek, the red nape and finally the yellow flight feathers.
Woodpeckers attack structures for many reasons. Spring and fall are the most active times for excavation of nest and roost cavities and to establish territories. Both males and females will drum to mark a territory and attract a mate. Woodpeckers will return repeatedly to a site, attacking the area again and again. The reasons for attack include finding insects for food, often carpenter bees, or for a nest cavity or roosting site, or for other social reasons. Typically territorial drumming will be on surfaces that resonate well, such as metal trim, gutters, flashing or downspouts. Unlike termites, woodpeckers do not eat wood. To minimize damage, it is important to take action as soon as a woodpecker begins to attack your home. It may be prudent to continue those measures after the attacking bird has left. To avoid attracting other woodpeckers repair or replace any damaged areas on your home as soon as possible.
What can be done to stop the pecking? General woodpecker deterrents and frightening methods. Birds often acclimate to the same visual stimulus in the same exact place every single day. Moving deterrents and ones moved is the best.
Many types of visual deterrents are available. First, tie mylar balloons to corners of the attacked building. They will move with the wind and contain helium to float up. The helium lets you attach the balloon without a ladder. Just tie it off at the base of the corner. Second, Aluminum foil strips or reflective tape, such as Irri-Tape, manufactured by Bird-X, hung from areas where damage occurs may scare away woodpeckers. The strips should be long enough to hang freely and blow in the breeze. Windsocks hung from house corners serve the same purpose as aluminum foil and are more attractive.
Next handheld windmills, especially those with reflective vanes, can be attached along areas of damage. The motion of the revolving vanes may discourage woodpeckers. Finally, consider Terror Eyes manufactured by Bird-X, may prove effective as an alternative to plastic owls. This product bounces from a spring, and the holographic eyes follow the bird in any direction.
A sound deterrent is another option. A recording of a woodpecker distress call followed by the call of a predator (such as a Sharp-shinned Hawk) broadcast through a speaker system at various intervals will frighten woodpeckers away from your house. One example is BirdXPeller Pro, manufactured by Bird-X.
Woodpeckers are protected. A permit from the US Fish and Wildlife service is needed to kill them. If you reach the point you are attaching a rat snap trap to the side of your house, you must contact the USDA and they will help with the permitting.