Is It Illegal to Kill Woodpeckers? (Check This Out First)

Is It Illegal to Kill Woodpeckers

If you have ever been woken up at 5 a.m. by the lovely sound of a woodpecker pecking away beside your bedroom window, you have likely asked yourself if it is illegal to kill woodpeckers.

Killing woodpeckers is illegal everywhere in the United States. Woodpeckers are protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 which prevents anyone from killing a bird for unnecessary reasons. If caught killing woodpeckers, you can be fined and charged with a misdemeanor.

However, this does not mean that you have to live with woodpeckers in your yard. We will unpeck all the other ways you can rid a woodpecker from your territory and how you can prevent them from coming back in the future.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

Even though killing woodpeckers is illegal, this doesn’t mean that there are no other options for you to solve the issue.

Try some of our favorite tools to scare off woodpeckers:

1. Copper Windchimes – An attractive addition to your yard that is known to scare woodpeckers

2. Mirror Windchimes – Woodpeckers are scared of reflective objects and sounds- the perfect combo

3. Decorative Owl – Woodpeckers will see a predator, humans will see the charm

Woodpeckers and the Migratory Bird Act 

To understand if it is illegal or not to kill a woodpecker, you need to be aware of the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Let’s discuss this act and how it determines if it is illegal or not to kill a woodpecker.

Are Woodpeckers Endangered Species?

Many species of woodpeckers are endangered, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and the ivory-billed woodpecker.  Other species are at risk of becoming endangered and are therefore protected by federal law. 

Many species of woodpeckers have been on the endangered species list since the 60s and the 70s. It is important for the US to maintain the rest of the woodpecker species, so they are protecting them under federal law. 

Are Woodpeckers Protected?

Woodpeckers are protected under federal law, therefore protected in every state in America including Alaska. This means that you cannot kill or sell a woodpecker, among other things. 

Since many species of woodpeckers are a part of the Endangered Species Act, the US has an obligation to protect the woodpeckers.

Protecting the woodpeckers maintains their ecosystems which in turn maintains the health of the planet.

Is It Illegal to Kill Woodpeckers?

It is illegal to kill woodpeckers since woodpeckers are federally protected in the United States and Canada. If you want to kill a woodpecker, you need to apply for a special permit that is issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

You may only apply for this permit if the woodpecker is damaging your property. This permit is not guaranteed if you apply for it, and each permit is issued on a case-by-case basis. 

If you need to get rid of a pesky woodpecker in your yard, you need to find non-lethal ways to do this. If you get caught killing a woodpecker, you can face serious fines and possible jail time. 

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What Is the U.S. Migratory Bird Act?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 is a conservation treaty that the US entered into along with Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia. This act ensures that migratory bird species are able to live in a safe environment. 

Migratory birds are birds that travel from one way one place to another at regular times often over long distances.

When these birds travel from one country to another, they need to be ensured that they will remain protected in the new country. 

Many birds travel through the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia.

Therefore, all of these countries need to be on the same page when it comes to protecting these animals which is why they all signed into the same treaty.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for any citizen to take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) any of the migratory bird species that are on this protected list. 

You can only kill a migratory bird if you obtain a special permit that is issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Is the Migratory Bird Act Still in Effect?

The Migratory Bird Act is still in effect in the United States. Although it did undergo a change in 2021, the changes were revoked later in the year. 

So, although the treaty was adjusted in 2021, the changes were revoked. The treaty, in 2022, is just as it was in 1918.

What Is the Penalty for Violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

If you violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, you can either be charged with a misdemeanor offense or a felony offense. You can be charged as an individual or as a corporation.

The penalty for a misdemeanor offense is a maximum of $5,000 and jail time of not more than six months for individuals. For an organization, the penalty is a $10,000 fine and not more than six months of jail time.

The penalty for a felony offense is a maximum of $250,000 and not more than two years in jail time for an individual.

For an organization, you will not be fined more than $100,000 and face no more than two years in jail. 

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How to Deal With the Woodpecker

Now that we have determined that it is illegal to kill a woodpecker, we have to distinguish other ways to deal with the woodpecker.

Although woodpeckers are harmless, they can end up causing destruction to your home and to your sanity.

Can I Shoot a Woodpecker Destroying My House?

You are not legally allowed to shoot a woodpecker that is destroying your house. Woodpeckers are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which prohibits anyone from killing woodpeckers. 

However, if you believe that you have a good enough reason to kill a woodpecker, then you can apply for a depredation permit from the US Fish and Wildlife service.

This permit allows you to take a woodpecker’s life as long as you do it in a humane way. 

What Is Wildlife Depredation?

Depredation is defined as an act of attacking or plundering. So, wildlife depredation is when wildlife is causing property damage. This can be anything from destroying your physical home, your pets, or your garden.

Sometimes wildlife can cause property damage and leave humans no choice but to eradicate the culprit. In these cases, governing bodies issue permits that allow someone to legally kill a protected animal. 

What Is a Depredation Permit?

A depredation permit is something that allows a human to kill an animal that is protected because the animal is causing property damage. The permit is typically issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Some animals are protected within the United States because they are considered endangered.

These animals are protected federally, or sometimes just within the state, so a special permit is needed to allow for the death of this animal. 

How Do You Get a Depredation Permit?

To apply for a depredation permit, you can apply to your state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. You should only apply if you can prove that the wildlife is causing serious damage to your property. 

You can also apply directly to the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service webpage. There is a permit application search page where you can search for the specific permit you are trying to obtain. 

Here is the specific application page for the deprivation of migratory birds

What Can I Do With a Depredation Permit?

With the depredation permit, you have the permission to provide short-term relief for bird damage. However, you must prove that you have long-term non-lethal measures set in place. 

Essentially, this means that you cannot solely rely on killing a bird to manage a situation. You must have other measures set in place such as preventative and control measures.

If these measures have failed, then you’ll be granted permission to kill the bird.

How Long Is a Depredation Permit Valid For?

A depredation permit may be valid for up to one year depending on the situation. The authorizer can make the permit valid for less than a year depending on the situation and the species involved. 

You are also allowed to renew a depredation permit as long as it is 30 days prior to the expiration of your current permit. You must submit a renewal permit form and wait for approval.

Does It Cost Anything to Get a Depredation Permit?

Depredation permits cost $100 for the application fee and $50 for a possible amendment fee.  Both of these fees are nonrefundable. 

Additionally, it may take as long as one year to receive the permit and at least 60 days for the application to be reviewed. 

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Reasons Woodpeckers Are Attracted to Your House

As we can see, receiving a depredation permit may take a little longer than the situation calls for.

So, we are going to have to find out why the woodpeckers are attracted to your house and later, how we can prevent this from happening. 

Why Are Woodpeckers Pecking at My House?

A woodpecker pecking at your house may be a blessing in disguise. Woodpeckers tend to peck where they are searching for food. This means that you may have insects in your home’s siding that you need to worry about. 

If you have woodpeckers constantly pecking at your house, this could be a sign that you have termites in your home’s siding. However, it could also mean that they are only searching for ants and spiders.

Regardless, you should always take it as a sign – if woodpeckers are pecking at your house – to inspect the area and find out if there is anything you should be more concerned about. 

What Attract Woodpeckers to Your House?

Like most wildlife, woodpeckers are attracted to areas that provide them food.  If woodpeckers are attracted to your house, they may have found something that provides them with nutrients.

Woodpeckers enjoy eating certain insects such as beetles, ants, flies, and caterpillars. So, if your house is a breeding ground for such insects, then a woodpecker will be all over it. 

Woodpeckers also enjoy eating birdseed. If you have several birdfeeders in your yard, a woodpecker will be initially attracted to the birdseed and then look for food elsewhere in its immediate surroundings. 

Is It Bad for a Woodpecker to Peck At Your House?

A woodpecker pecking at your house can mean three things; Either they are mating, creating a nest, or eating insects that are in your siding. You should be concerned about two of those things. 

When woodpeckers are mating, they will peck extra loud, or just a normal loud, to attract their perfect mate. Unfortunately, they may use your house as their personal bongo.

Although this can be quite irritating, it is nothing you should be concerned about.

But, on the flip side, woodpeckers may also be pecking at your house if they are creating a nest. Woodpeckers will create a large hole in your siding for a nest typically around the end of spring. 

This can be concerning for you because, since woodpeckers are a protected species, it is illegal to disturb their nests. So, you may want to prevent the nest from happening before it starts. 

The last reason why woodpeckers may be pecking at your house is to find food.

If they believe that your home’s siding is a good source for insects, such as ants, spiders, and termites, they will continue pecking there until they eat most of the insects. 

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How to Keep Woodpeckers Away

Now that we have determined why woodpeckers may be coming around to your house, we need to figure out how we can keep them away.

Although woodpeckers are beautiful creatures, their pecking can be quite annoying, especially at 5 a.m.

What to Do if You Have a Woodpecker?

Woodpeckers are afraid of unusual noises and reflective objects such as mirrors. You can hang up wind chimes and decorative hanging mirrors if you want to keep woodpeckers away from your yard. 

Thankfully, these objects will add to your yard instead of taking away from the beauty of it all. You can also think about putting out ornaments such as fake owls or hawks.

Woodpeckers see these as predatory birds and will stay clear of them. 

What Do You When a Woodpecker Is Pecking at Your House?

If woodpeckers are pecking at your house, you should start by covering all the holes that they have been creating. It is possible that they are creating holes to create a nest in the future for more woodpeckers. 

If this is the situation, your irritation levels can be doubled, if not tripled. You should cover the holes with aluminum foil as this will create a shiny object that woodpeckers do not like.

It will also create a loud noise, something else that woodpeckers do not like. 

You can also try placing certain types of shiny tape around the area where the woodpecker likes to be. Woodpeckers do not like anything that is reflective.

They also do not like hawks and owls, as they are seen as predatory birds, so you can place ornamental hawks and owls around your property. 

How Do I Keep Woodpeckers off My Deck?

To keep woodpeckers off your deck, you can hang wind chimes or decorative hanging mirrors. Woodpeckers do not like anything that is shiny or that makes unusual noises. 

You can also place wooden or plastic owls on your deck’s banister because woodpeckers see owls as predators and will be scared to approach the owl or any surrounding area. 

Additionally, you can place reflective tape on your deck to scare off the woodpecker as they are afraid of reflective objects. 

What Smells Do Woodpeckers Hate?

Woodpeckers dislike the smell of garlic and peppermint. This is convenient because many animal repellents are made of peppermint since this is a common smell most wildlife dislike. 

You can spray this peppermint deterrent spray around your yard or specific areas where woodpeckers are pecking. If woodpeckers are picking at your house, you can spray this in the holes that they are creating. 

Or, if you are looking to prevent woodpeckers from coming back, you can use this spray around your entire property. Ensure to re-spray an area after it rains or snows 

How Do I Permanently Get Rid of Woodpeckers?

The most effective way to permanently get rid of woodpeckers is to install bird netting. Bird netting can be installed around areas of concern specifically where your woodpecker enjoyed to be the most.

For example, if the Woodpecker enjoyed a certain tree of yours, you can set up tall posts, or wooden posts out of the tree, and attach the bird netting to these posts.

The woodpecker will be physically unable to get through the netting and reach the tree. 

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Related Questions

Are Woodpeckers Protected in the UK?

Woodpeckers are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. This prevents anyone from killing a woodpecker without an appropriate permit. 

Since woodpeckers are considered an endangered species in many parts of the world, countries have particular acts to protect the woodpeckers from being hunted or killed for any unnecessary reason. 

Are Woodpeckers Protected in Canada?

Woodpeckers are protected in Canada under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This act prevents anyone from killing, moving, or trading a woodpecker since they are considered an endangered species. 

In order to protect woodpeckers, and prevent them from going extinct, Canada signed into the Migratory Bird Treaty act along with the US, Mexico, Japan, and Russia.

This prevents anyone from killing a woodpecker for any unnecessary reason, including sport.

Final Thoughts

Although woodpeckers can be extremely annoying creatures, especially very early in the morning, they are, unfortunately, endangered species.

This means that it is within a country’s obligation to protect the species and prevent them from being killed for any unnecessary reason. 

Thankfully, we have outlined several other ways that you can get rid of woodpeckers and prevent them from coming back in the future- without having to pull the trigger on them. 

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