Foiling Flickers

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! My story about flickers was fictionalized, but based on personal experience. Last spring, flickers really did invade our home.

By August, my husband and I realized we’d nailed scraps of wood across 15 large flicker-sized holes. Piles of fluffy insulation littered the ground beneath each one. That fall we replaced much of the cedar siding on our house, to the tune of over a thousand dollars. The question became critical: What could we do to prevent the birds from drilling into our new wood?

A lot of people must be having the same problem. A quick web search turned up plenty of suggestions, but not much in the way of success stories. Inflatable owls don’t work—the birds are smarter than that. Flickers quickly become accustomed to hanging strips of aluminum, Mylar balloons, and small colored windmills. What else could we do?

northern-flicker-blackforestco-2008oct08-lah-005I called the DOW, and was informed that it’s illegal to hurt native wild birds. You can poison the pigeons in the park (they’re considered an invasive species from Europe), but woe betide you if you take a pellet gun to a Northern Flicker. I related this to my husband, who seemed disappointed.

I did some research into bird behavior. Perhaps the birds themselves would present a solution. That’s when we decided to build the nesting box. Flickers are territorial. If we could get them to nest in the box, perhaps they would give up on excavating their own home. Plus, they would drive away any interlopers. There seemed some sort of poetic justice to having flickers patrolling our yard for other flickers.

As far as I can tell, we did everything right. We even packed the box with wood shavings and sawdust. We hung it right over a hole they’d been chiseling, high up on the end of the house. But while the birds enthusiastically emptied out the box, they never moved in. Instead, they started a new hole about a foot away. It was very frustrating.

We tried every solution we came across, except one. Pete found several websites selling a “sonic repeller” that, as the ad explained, “…uses birds’ own distress calls to create a ‘danger zone’—it frightens infesting birds away for good.” Perhaps that works. At the time, $250 seemed like a lot of money, and I admit I was leery about their claim to be species specific. I had a lot invested in birdfeeders, and I didn’t want to scare all the birds out of the yard. I just wanted the flickers to stop making holes in my house!

northern-flicker-blackforestco-2008oct08-lah-029Well, this year the flickers are here, and our house is still intact. What did we do?

We bought lots of bird netting. Most people are familiar with the black netting that keeps songbirds out of fruit trees. This product is based on the same principle, but is much stronger. It comes in 15-foot wide strips, on large rolls that they’ll cut to length. You just buy as much as you want.

We used this netting to cover three sides of our house that the birds seem to favor. (The fourth side, the front, faces south, and gets very warm during the summer. Plus, that’s where the most people are. For whatever reason, the flickers don’t attempt to nest there.)

My husband spent an entire weekend on ladders, hanging netting from the eaves and anchoring the bottom to the soil. In places where the house is taller than 15 feet, he had to clip two widths together. With the house now shrouded, we’re trying to figure out how to access the faucets. I miss the unobstructed view from my office window; seeing the garden through half-inch black netting just isn’t the same. At least the black netting is mostly invisible against our dark wood home.

The best part? We have sustained zero woodpecker damage. Zero. It’s worth it.

Oh, the flickers are here. They work their way up the tree trunks, empty the suet feeders, and announce their territory by hammering the chimney flashing. That’s fine with me. They’re also eating bugs and providing hours of entertainment. We’ve achieved a truce of sorts. Maybe I’ll hang their nest box on a tree somewhere, and see if they use it this year.

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3 Responses to Foiling Flickers

  1. sue thomas says:

    Leslie,
    Our neighbors next door tried the sonic deterrent and it sounded like they were torturing howler monkeys! Plus, the flickers got used to the noise….. their neighbors, us, didn’t.

  2. Carey says:

    I wonder if they didn’t nest in the box because you’d already so graciously supplied nesting materials in it….? (And they figured it was “used” or someone else’s?) I am so grateful to have never had this problem with the flickers. Do they not drill through painted wood? And I actually enjoy it when they drill on our metal chimney caps, but I’m weird that way.

  3. Pingback: Dear Aiken Audubon… | Mountain Plover

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