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downy woodpecker house sparrow rock dove European starling
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What they look like
Pigeons, starlings, and sparrows are the usual suspects in urban settings. Look and listen for signs. If bird droppings, looking like splotches of dirty white paint, build up in places you’d rather they didn’t, look up—there’s probably a bird-friendly spot up above. Note—these birds colonize both barns and neighborhoods.
Woodpeckers are a special case, since you’re unlikely to find them in urban neighborhoods. If you hear them rapping on the side of your house, look for holes. They’re either making a nest, drumming a message to other woodpeckers, or looking for food. In which case be grateful—they’ve alerted you to the bugs that got into the wood.

Where they live
They like to nest or hang out where we live, just up one level.

What they do

Bird droppings can damage whatever they land on, even stone or concrete. Birds carry mites and other parasites and some diseases; some endanger livestock. They play an important role in nature, eating tons of insects. So the goal is to keep them in nature rather than in your home or barn. Woodpeckers can damage wooden buildings.

How to deal with birds

If someone nearby is feeding these birds, try to convince them to stop. Cover fruit bushes with netting—buy it at your garden center. Make the places they land on less appealing with netting, bird spikes, or coils. Find suppliers online: search for “bird exclusion” products. Keep birds out of buildings by making sure screens are intact and covering your chimney in the summer. Block entry anywhere you see them getting in.

On a farm, feed animals in containers and keep water in troughs deep enough that birds can’t stand in the water—but not so full they can perch on the edge and take a sip.

For woodpeckers, fill holes that have been started asap and put up something that moves in the wind to scare them off. Aluminum foil strips or wind catchers blowing in the breeze near where the damage was found should solve the problem.

Learn more

Beasts Begone, A Practitioner's Guide to IPM in Buildings

Contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

... and search our database of online publications.