By Sheri Hoffman, Broomfield Wildlife Master
The Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus) is a woodpecker that is 7” to 15” in length with brown, barred back and black spotted under-parts. You will probably hear it drumming on gutters, metal pipes, or siding. The drumming starts in early spring and usually ends by July 1. Drumming is most frequent in early morning and late afternoon. Woodpeckers drum to establish territory, locate a mate, search for insects, or excavate a nest site. Cedar or redwood siding, gutters, or roof vent pipes produce loud sounds and are preferred by the flicker. Damage can be done to stucco, plywood, Masonite, cedar, rough pine, and redwood siding.
Flickers have a distinctive black crescent bib and a long black bill, short legs, a stiff tail, and sharp-clawed toes. Males have a red mustache located under each eye. Northern Flickers are easily identified during flight by the orange tint under their wings and a white rump patch. Most woodpeckers eat insects, berries, tree sap, and vegetable matter.
Controlling flicker damage occurs by exclusion, scare devices, preventative construction, or a combination of all three. A form of exclusion would be to attach cloth or plastic netting at an angle, from the eaves to the siding, below the damaged area. Hooks or dowels can be used for this attachment.
Scare devices include hawk silhouettes, mirrors, plastic strips, and pinwheels. The hawk silhouette can be made of cardboard and should have a wingspan of at least 22” and length of 11”. The silhouette should be painted a dark color and hung from the eaves or attached to the siding at the damaged area. It is best to place a silhouette on each side of the damaged area. Shaving or cosmetic mirrors located at the damaged site work to enlarge the image and frighten the woodpecker. Plastic strips (possibly cut from a garbage bag) should be approximately 1” wide and 2’ to 3’ long. Pinwheels should be 12” in diameter. Both the plastic strips and the pinwheel should be placed at the damaged spot.
Preventative construction includes prompt repair of woodpecker holes. Cover the drilled area with aluminum flashing, tin can tops, or metal sheathing. Be sure to paint the metal to match the siding.
Few chemicals are effective repellents for woodpeckers. Sticky bird repellents (Tanglefoot R or Roost-No-More R) applied to the damaged area may repel the woodpecker but may also stain the siding in hot weather.
All North American woodpeckers are cavity nesters. Noting this, another solution would be to place a nest box on the home at or near the damaged area. Nest boxes are worth trying when all other methods fail.
For more information about flickers, call the Broomfield Wildlife Masters Hotline at 303.464.5554.