How can we deter a woodpecker at our cottage?

Pileated Woodpecker

We’ve had a pileated woodpecker wreaking havoc on the boards of our cottage. Would hanging decoy owls work? Would hanging those items that dangle and twist in the wind do any good?
—Carol Schaefer, Otter Lake, Ont.

The second option is better: Hanging long, dangling materials that move in the breeze, such as mylar streamers, sheets of plastic, aluminum foil strips, or windsocks indeed may help—they  look weird and frightening, and they do make accessing the wood less convenient. (To protect areas under the eaves, attach nylon or plastic netting from the overhanging eave to the side of the cottage.) But motionless owl decoys probably won’t work. Sure, they could scare your woodpecker away for a few days, but eventually, the jig will be up. He’ll habituate, and ignore them.

Woodpeckers hammer wood for two reasons: to stake out territory and attract mates, and to find insects. If yours is going after the boards of your cottage because of a bug infestation (this may be, since territorial drumming doesn’t usually cause damage), you probably want to get rid of the bugs. Check for carpenter ants, a common favourite of woodpeckers.

You can also lure Woody away from your cottage siding by putting out a suet feeder, and leaving standing dead trees—a source of food and shelter—on the property.