I killed a woodpecker with a slingshot.

We bought a pellet gun, but since Cabela’s takes these things very seriously, we ended up with what looked like an action movie prop. The suspect had taken up residence in a hole on the side of my house, so clearly a less militaristic solution was in order.

CRITTER CONFUSION: Although they share some similar behaviors, nuthatches (shown above) are not technically woodpeckers, such as the white-headed variety (shown here). Birdiegal/bigstockphoto.com

The plan wasn’t to hit the bird, only the area around its newly pecked little condo. I chose these less-lethal clay balls that look like tiny Milk Duds and dissolve in the grass, because there’s no way to successfully aim a slingshot. You just pull back the damn thing and let it fly. So that’s what I did.


After a feathery “thud,” the bird took wing, fluttering erratically for the deep, shaded sanctuary of a nearby, towering Jeffery Pine.

The bird looked drunk. A toy solider under a flimsy paper parachute, it ebbed and flowed to the ground, ceremoniously arriving back to Earth in a knee-high stand of vibrant spring daffodils.

Remember: I was aiming for, and missed, a house.

Upon further investigation, I came to learn the now-deceased suspect was actually a nuthatch, a small, cavity nester cousin that is more closely related to the chickadee, but much like the woodpecker, will peck at trees to gain access to insects, establish territories, and build nests. Although they rarely start from scratch when it comes to boring holes for a nest, they are known to enlarge abandoned woodpecker holes that have been abandoned. So, while he wasn’t technically a woodpecker, he was a pecker nonetheless. The nuthatch was clearly a squatter who had taken up residence in a hole created by its relative and decided a renovation was in order.

Unless you can handle the emotional jihad that butchering an innocent woodpecker or nuthatch will declare on your soul, try the following alternatives to prevent any more avian hooligans from turning your castle into a colander — but I’m not making any promises.

Metallic Fladry

Ranchers use fladry, or strips of wind-blown ribbon, to scare off wolves from livestock grounds. It’s equally ineffective on woodpeckers as it is with wolves. But at least you’re trying something.

Fake Birds of Prey

You know those fake owls people attach to their homes to scare off woodpeckers? Yeah, so do the woodpeckers.

Noise Alarms

Woodpeckers are supposedly not fond of sudden, loud noises. Yet, I live across the street from the auditory bedlam of the Southern Pacific Railroad and they’re still flocking to my abode, so it’s fair to question the validity of this solution.

Giant Spiders

If you can handle an electric arachnid on your home, have at it. But here’s my RSVP to your next party: no.


A family on our street attached birdhouses to their siding. It seems to be working, and it’s super neighborly.

DAMAGED: A local homeowner went upstairs one summer morning to find her two cats sitting atop the woodburning stove, staring up at the stovepipe as little scraping sounds captured their attention. Without her curious cats’ keen senses, the homeowner might not have known that a woodpecker had bored through the cedar house siding and somehow made its way into the pipe, inside of which it had started to build a nest that surely would’ve caught fire once the seasons changed and the stove was back in use. The nearly $1,000 in damage was a small price to pay. Photo by Juliana Demarest

Truth is, you can’t beat these birds. You can patch the holes come fall, but it’s a Sisyphean ordeal if there ever was one.

Instead, remember why you moved to the mountains, and unless a bear decides to den in your mudroom, it doesn’t hurt to let in a little Mother Nature now and again.


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