Woodpeckers in Arizona
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Other Names: Many species of woodpeckers, flickers, and related sapsuckers live in the United States and Arizona, often in close association with structures built in wooded areas.
Origin: These are nearly all native birds in North America, and various species may be found throughout the United States. Common species are downy, red-headed, and acorn woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and red-shafted or common flicker.
Biology: Woodpeckers can damage structures by pecking holes in siding in their desire to create openings for nesting or to store food materials such as acorns. They also may be a nuisance when they peck on metal rain gutters or other structural elements in what is called “drumming”, which is a communication tool of the birds, often during mating season. Foods consist of a variety of nuts, acorns, seeds, fruits, and insects, and holes are pecked into trees to seek out insect larvae, as well as gathering insects on the ground or capturing them in flight. Flickers are very fond of ants, and may eat thousands at one meal, feeding most often on the ground on insects, seeds, or berries. Sapsuckers feed on the sap of trees, drilling holes close together around the trunk and major branches to access the cambium, and then lapping the sap with a brush-like tongue. Flickers picking up insects from the soil have tongues with sticky, flattened tips, while woodpeckers that drill into trees for insects may have longer tongues with barbed tips to hold the food while it is withdrawn. In mild climates most woodpeckers do not migrate, but remain permanent residents or move only slightly. Nesting is usually within a hollowed hole in a dead tree, with new holes dug and nests created each year. From 4 to 6 eggs are laid in early to mid spring, with young hatching in about 2 weeks.
Identification: Woodpeckers generally are black and white, often with red patches to varying extents on their heads. And black bars through the eye area. Flickers are more mottled brown with spotted bellies, and also with red or orange on their heads. Sapsuckers are very similar in appearance to woodpeckers. Most species have long, straight, very stout beaks, and most often will be seen resting on the vertical trunks of trees. The unique arrangement of their toes allows them easily to climb vertical surfaces, including sides of structures.
Characteristics Important in Control: All woodpeckers are classified as migratory non-game birds and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Other than exclusion and repelling, any control that may harm the birds is permitted only under supervision of regulatory wildlife agencies, and only when depredation of structures is occurring. Most effective control is with exclusion by installation of physical devices, such as netting, which keeps birds from accessing areas of the structure where they would cause damage. Repellents also exist that can be applied to susceptible surfaces.
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