Woodpeckers are beautiful and useful birds but some people find the drumming on their chimney or pecking on wood or metal parts of their house driving them crazy.
These birds are hammering their woodpecker’s “song” to announce their territory or to attract a mate. It is also a way for the male and female to stay in touch. Even though the sound can be at times loud and disturbing, it is generally not very destructive.
In case you decide to get rid of the bird from your property, you should consider the moral and legal implications. If you have a serious woodpecker problem you may want to choose an elimination method that only relocates them, but does not kill them!
Woodpeckers are protected in Florida and killing them can lead to serious consequences. If you want these birds removed from your home, make sure that this is done legally, and in a safe and humane manner.
Does Florida Have Woodpeckers?
Yes, Florida is home to woodpeckers, among many birds. A great number of exotic bird species have been introduced, especially in the urban areas, and currently, there are nine species of woodpeckers inhabiting Florida.
Particularly in southern Florida, these birds have adapted to the heavy urbanization. Woodpeckers have found their new habitat due to the imported palms that altered the region’s landscape so heavily. They prefer to use dead palms to chisel their small nest cavities.
So if you happen to have a dead palm around, it’s recommended not to remove it (unless it’s been an eyesore on your property). This way you will invite these colorful birds to visit your yard.
Are Woodpeckers Protected in Florida?
Woodpeckers are a protected species by the state and federal wildlife departments. They are classified as migratory, non-game birds and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This legislation is meant to crack down on those people who intentionally kill federally protected birds.
Can You Kill a Woodpecker in Florida?
Regardless of whether a bird is protected or not, it should not be killed nor harmed.
Penalties for killing federally protected birds are high. When you illegally kill a woodpecker in Florida you will be fined up to $500 and 6 months in jail.
However, a woodpecker can be killed under a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To be warranted, you must present evidence that you’ve tried all other methods of exclusion or deterrence but without any success. To find out more, get in touch with your nearest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office.
Are Woodpeckers Good to Have Around in Your Yard?
Woodpeckers are beneficial and play an important part in the natural environment.
You might see the woodpeckers in the yard from time to time and you will know that they have arrived by hearing their characteristic knocking. You will certainly enjoy watching woodpeckers while you’re having your breakfast in your backyard.
Even though these birds can’t sing and are deficient in their voice, they do not lack a musical ear. A woodpecker might actually get creative in “playing” music, for example by changing his key by tapping its beak in a place that’s just an inch away from the previous drumming place, which results in obtaining a higher note. When he alternates between these two spots, his music will gain a greater variety and charm.
The woodpeckers are also smart enough to discover the superior conductivity of metals in no time. In places where there are not enough trees growing, the bird finds a tin roof an almost irresistible attraction. It will then venture on hammering you out a harmony of sounds.
Feeders to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Yard
Using feeders to encourage woodpeckers into your garden is the best option. Different styles of feeders will attract a wide range of birds.
Woodpeckers like suet and they will also be attracted by a good-quality seed block.
Suet feeders, which mostly appeal to woodpeckers, are among the most effective and affordable feeders. So keep your suet feeders filled year-round and just enjoy watching adult woodpeckers bring their fledglings out of the nest to feed.
Small woodpeckers, especially Downy woodpeckers, are attracted to tube feeders. Because tube feeders are usually made of clear plastic, you’ll be easily able to track the amount of food left inside.
But larger size woodpeckers can find it difficult to find a place on hopper and platform feeders to support their stiff tails so that they can feed in an upright position.
Woodpecker feeders are designed especially for woodpeckers, and they include a support that these birds can use to brace their tails. Also, this type of feeder has walls that are 3/4 inch thick in order to prevent almost all other birds from taking the nuts and seeds from the feeder. Only woodpeckers have beaks long enough to reach the food inside.
Ball feeders, on the other hand, are round, or in the shape of a bowl or a satellite dish. The containers have no attached perches but only round openings at the base. Due to their design, only birds that have strong feet and are used to clinging are able to use it, and woodpeckers handle ball feeders with ease. Thus, you can enjoy watching the skilled aerial acrobatics that these birds will perform when they feed and perch.
You might use a shelled peanut feeder for woodpeckers, as well.
Are Woodpeckers Good for Your Trees?
Woodpeckers are particularly dependent on trees, which provide them with food, shelter, and cradles for their young. Trees are important to them, and at the same time, these birds are important to trees.
Woodpeckers are beneficial for trees because they consume a lot of the most destructive wood pests, harmful insects, and hidden larvae that are mostly inaccessible to other birds. These insects represent the majority of their food. This way woodpeckers can act as a natural form of pest control for your property.
By eating these insects, and also by chiseling their cavities, the birds have another important economic relation to trees. This is because they remove bark and wood from both living and dead trees. And as most woodpeckers prefer to build their nests in dead or dying branches, their work is not going to harm the tree.
However, the excavations on the living part of the tree are harmful. Each time these birds chisel and dig out an insect from living a living tree, they will damage most of the cambium layer, from which both bark and wood develop. As a result, the injuries to the cambium layer will cause distorted growth, but the destruction of large areas of the cambium might cause the death of the tree.
The biggest culprit here is a sapsucker, which is most injurious as its main goal in digging into trees is to secure the cambium layer and the sap for food. The cavities they make also allow for bacteria, moisture, and fungi to get inside, which injures and sometimes destroys the tree.
What Kind of Woodpeckers Live in Florida?
So, let’s take a quick look at the species of woodpeckers that can be seen in Florida.
This impressive species is the largest of its tribe in the US and used to inhabit renowned hardwood forests that once stretched across the southeastern US but have been largely destroyed by loggers by the mid-20th century. Its habitat destruction has led to a serious depletion of the population of the Ivory-billed woodpecker, which is now listed as “definitely or probably extinct” by the American Birding Association.
The threatened Red-cockaded woodpecker inhabits the southeastern states, mostly Florida. Because pine forests have disappeared as a result of years of fire suppression and large-scale clearing, the species has declined by over 80% in the last 50 years and was listed “endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1970. These birds are non-migratory, however, some may travel due to habitat loss as they like to chisel holes in living green trees.
This bird is common and widespread in Florida. It is big and has really long, thread-like, white feathers. The Hairy woodpeckers prefer larger and mature forests with bigger trees. They often visit suburban yards and parks with plenty of trees. Sadly, due to habitat loss, their populations are declining.
It’s a colorful and charismatic species but is very noisy. The Red-headed woodpeckers’ preferred habitats are open groves with plentiful snags to nest and roost. However, their population has declined by nearly 70% over the past 50 years, which makes them “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List.
On average, they are 18 inches long and have wings with 29 inches span. These birds prefer inhabiting mature forests with large trees. Pileated woodpeckers excavate big cavities in trees looking for their favorite food sources, i.e. ants and beetle larvae.
The small, round-headed woodpecker is Florida’s most common species. It has adapted to urban as well as wildland habitats but it favors mature forest habitat.
The Red-bellied woodpecker loves fruit, particularly oranges. However, it doesn’t destroy commercial groves. This is because, like humans, they like only sweet fruit and won’t usually touch an orange that tastes bitter and is not ripe. And oranges are harvested by commercial growers before they are ripe.
These pigeon-sized birds survive mainly on a diet of ants, which they dig out of the ground. Since they are bad excavators, they usually nest in natural or cavities made by other birds. They are also likely to nest in a birdhouse if it’s full of wood shavings. In Florida, you may spot a lot of them in the winter months.
It’s the only migratory woodpecker in North America where the entire population moves each year. In Florida, the Yellow-bellied sapsucker is the only woodpecker that does not breed here and is just a winter resident that sometimes passes through on its way to Cuba and West Indies.
It’s a Florida native as well. The friendly Downy woodpecker is usually found in open woodlands but will regularly visit your bird feeder if you put suet inside. This species is more devoted than other birds. He works twice as long and stays the whole year here. He’ll never destroy the orchard, and feeds mostly on insects, wild fruit and seeds.
On a Final Note,
Woodpeckers are very interesting, colorful, and smart birds. They are also the easiest of all birds to recognize. Dead, standing trees and branches are a wonderful source of food and home for these birds who will regularly visit your yard filling the air with the sound of their hammering.