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Simple Repairs for Woodpecker Damage

Updated on August 22, 2013
Damage done to tree trunk by woodpecker.
Damage done to tree trunk by woodpecker. | Source

DIY Solutions for Damage caused by Woodpeckers

So you’ve got a woodpecker problem? Hopefully you read our previous posts (Woodpecker -Friend or Foe? & How to Say "Bye Bye Birdy" to Woodpeckers) and were able to use some of the helpful hints in your efforts to keep the birds away from your tree. Once the bird is gone it’s time to focus on the task at hand, repairing the damage caused by the woodpeckers. Although woodpecker damage is rarely very serious, it is important to protect your tree from disease that might enter through the holes they have made.

First, examine the tree and note any damage or bug infestations. If insects are present, identify the bugs and promptly spray the tree to control any infestation before you repair the woodpecker holes.

Second, determine the severity of the damage. If the tree has in fact been damaged, how bad is it? Just because a woodpecker has pecked at a tree does not necessarily mean that there will be damage as a result.

Third, after determining the severity of the damage you can prepare a plan to repair it. Here are a few suggestions to repair the damage based on severity.

If the damage is minor with only a few holes, each hole being an inch or smaller, the best plan of defense is to do little or nothing at all. Filling in the holes could trap disease and bacteria, making the tree’s wounds worse.

  • The tree’s gashes and holes can be washed out with simple soap and water. Try liquid dish soap. This simple bath will reduce the amount of bacteria and other pathogens that may have been introduced into the tree by the woodpecker’s beak or claws. All soap should be thoroughly washed from the tree. The scratches and wounds of the tree can be left to heal in the open air.
  • The holes can also be treated with a fungicide to keep disease from entering the holes. The tree’s wound should be left to heal naturally. Frequently check the area for signs of insect activity or rot. If you see that the holes are not healing over and that the tree is experiencing some abnormal coloration or other indication of infections, then you may want to call your local tree service company or tree care expert! The highly trained staff can determine whether or not the tree can be salvaged with treatment, or whether or not it would be best if the tree were removed.

  • If you notice any bark that has become dislocated or freed by the woodpecker, use a kind of strapping tape or duct tape to hold the bark in place. Leave the duct tape over the bark for 3 months so that it may heal. If the damage is healed after the 3 months, the tape can be removed. If it is still in the process of healing after 3 months, it is best to apply more tape and wait an additional 3 months. Once the damage is healed all tape should be removed from the tree.

If the damage is more severe with larger holes or many holes in a tree, a little more repair work is needed. Debris should be removed and the holes or cavities should be cleaned with soap and water. The woodpecker damage should be treated with fungicide and covered with hardware cloth, also known as galvanized mesh. A piece of tin or window screen will also work. Only cover the damaged area. The whole tree should not be encircled. The mesh can be attached to the tree with small bolts. Think of it as a band-aid for your tree.

  • If the cavity is deep and will fill with water when it rains or snows, then holes should be drilled into the lower part of the cavity for easy drainage. The tree will eventually heal itself, but woodpeckers and other pests must be kept away from these cavities and crevices.


Woodpeckers will make their homes where they please.

Pileated woodpecker seen on the trunk of a maple tree.
Pileated woodpecker seen on the trunk of a maple tree. | Source

Woodpeckers May Return

Remember, many species of woodpeckers return to the same trees year after year to feed and nest. This means that while you may have repaired the damage, it’s likely that the bird will be back. Again we invite you to read our previous article for tips on how to keep the woodpeckers away. Keep in mind that if a dead tree needs removed and it was previously utilized by a woodpecker, the new healthy tree put in its place is very likely to be used by the same woodpecker for its home the following season.

We hope we’ve help those who may have been having a problem with our little “Woody Woodpecker” like friends this summer season. Good luck, and as always, thanks for reading.

Be Creative in Finding Solutions!

A once ugly, gaping crevice caused by a woodland creature such as a woodpecker can be easily transformed into a beautiful planter for flowers.
A once ugly, gaping crevice caused by a woodland creature such as a woodpecker can be easily transformed into a beautiful planter for flowers. | Source

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