What’s Eating Our House?

A neighbor pointed out to me yesterday that there’s a big hole in our clapboard siding that was made by some sort of bird. This morning, I got a picture of the culprit:

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I’m not quite certain why the animal kingdom has decided to trash my stuff this year– insane jealousy of Emmy?– but I would like it to stop. I will call the contractor who did our garage conversion to replace the siding, but it would be very helpful if somebody with actual knowledge of birds could tell me what these little guys are, and whether this hole-digging is a fluke behavior (which would be just my luck), or something that we can expect to move to a different part of the house after we repair this hole. Bonus points for non-lethal ways of getting them to go away and not come back.

Comments

  1. #1 cisko
    April 15, 2010

    What you’ve got there is a chickadee, probably a Black-capped Chickadee. You’ll likely also see them hanging out with Tufted Titmice.

    I’m not an expert so you probably want better advice than mine, but my parents have hordes of these around their house and have never had one nest in the siding. They have had birds nest in their second-floor dryer vent, but I don’t think those were chickadees — starlings or blackbirds, as I recall.

    I believe most birds are pretty particular about wanting a nest with an opening that’s juuust the right size; bigger holes make life easy for predators. It wouldn’t surprise me if closing the hole was enough to deter them. Woodpeckers can make their own nesting holes, but I doubt if chickadees can. You might also try putting up a birdhouse of the right size; that might serve as a preferable housing alternative when they lose access rights to your walls.

  2. #2 Mike Kozlowski
    April 15, 2010

    Oh, they only drill holes to get at termites.

  3. #3 Kate Nepveu
    April 15, 2010

    Yeah, I’m dubious that’s the culprit; I’m pretty sure I’ve heard something that sounds very much like a woodpecker in that area in the mornings and early afternoons.

  4. #4 Chad Orzel
    April 15, 2010

    They may not have made the original hole, but they are most certainly enlarging it, and making very woodpecker-like noises in so doing. They were very absorbed in the task, and I watched them from fairly close-up for a good while.

    Sadly, Emmy is too smart to concern herself with creatures that can fly, so we can’t get her to run them off. Unless we put her on stilts, or something.

  5. #5 cisko
    April 15, 2010

    If you see her going in and out of the hole, then she’s the one living there. That photo isn’t definitive but I’d bet she wouldn’t hang out that close to the hole unless it was her nest — or there was a nest or food source close by.

    (I say “she” but chickadees aren’t very dimorphic, so it could be a “he” too.)

    Of course, woodpeckers could be working in the area even if this is the chickadee’s home. Woodpeckers make noise for a variety of reasons, including digging for insects, making a home, and announcing their presence (“with authority!”). If there’s a dead tree nearby, or a tree with a dead limb, that’s the first place I’d look for a woodpecker, though they can go after siding too. So if there’s a woodpecker in the area, it’s worth keeping an eye on him to see what he’s up to.

  6. #6 Texas Reader
    April 15, 2010

    I agree that the hole was likely started by a woodpecker as chickadees likely aren’t capable of creating one – though it’s possible a chickadee enlarged it.

  7. #7 Mike Hoye
    April 15, 2010

    Replacing wood siding is a big investment; I’d consider painting a small (3″ x 4″ from the picture?) piece of sheet metal an equivalent white to your siding. Then laddering up there, making sure the space is empty, stuffing the hole with some loose fiberglass insulation and screwing the sheet metal into the siding on either side.

    Also: Consider getting a birdfeeder! Chickadees are very nice, especially in the wintertime.

  8. #8 Chad Orzel
    April 15, 2010

    I wasn’t planning to have all the siding replaced– just the board with the hole in it. We’ve had that done a couple of other places on the house.

    We have a birdfeeder out in the yard already. Chickadees galore, as well as mourning doves and a few cardinals. Though I could do without the grackles.

  9. #9 Kate Nepveu
    April 15, 2010

    Ah, I hadn’t understood you actually saw it pecking at hte wood, being absorbed with my own morning dramas (Dear SteelyKid, if you are going to be all happy and smiley the moment we arrive at daycare, could you quit with the acting like putting your socks and shoes on is pure torture?).

    We also get a few bluejays.

  10. #10 darwinsdog
    April 15, 2010

    It’s either a black-capped or a Carolina chickadee, depending on where you live. I can’t really tell from the photo. It’s definitely not a mountain chickadee. You may have seen the chickadee pecking at the edges of the hole but it couldn’t have made the hole. I’d suspect a squirrel.

  11. #11 Eric Lund
    April 15, 2010

    I wasn’t planning to have all the siding replaced– just the board with the hole in it.

    If you are actually going to replace an entire board, have you looked into replacing it with Hardieplank (sp?) or another fiber cement product? I replaced the siding on my house a few years ago, going from a wood product to Hardieplank. Before, I had problems with wildlife (mainly squirrels) nesting in my attic. Since then, the wildlife have left the house alone.

    Except for the hole, it looks like your siding is in pretty good shape. Keep an eye on it if this is the original siding and your house was built in the mid-1960s or earlier, but assuming the rest of the house is in similar condition and that you have no need to expand, you’re at least ten years away (barring tornados, tree falls, and other natural disasters) from needing to replace the rest of the siding.

  12. #12 Chuk
    April 15, 2010

    Never mind stilts, I think Emmy needs a jetpack. Bonus: since they are built for humans, it should use less fuel to carry a dog, so she’ll get more flight time out of it!

  13. #13 Art
    April 15, 2010

    Looks to me like you have a bigger problem that just a little hole. Based on the picture, as a start, I would say the your paint and caulk might be failing.

    Generally if a bird, short of a very determined woodpecker, can bore a hole the wood is rotten. The exception is if this spot might have been a lose knot.

    But the more I look at it, and the line the bird sits on, suggests the hole may have been a weak spot that was exploited and expanded by a rat. Rats like to climb such lines and easily chew through wood if they can catch the edge of an existing hole. The rat may be long gone. In that case the bird id just exploiting an existing nesting hole.

    Pest control guys use copper, stainless steel, or bronze wool they buy in large one pound packs. Good stuff because you can stuff it into holes large and small and caulk over it. Rats, and other pests won’t chew through it and it won’t rust or stain your siding.

    People with just a few smallish holes can use the coiled copper or stainless scrubbers you can buy at any grocery store. You just stuff it tightly into the hole and caulk the edges well and then skim over with any good silicone fortified latex/acrylic caulk. This can be painted over next time the house is painted.

    A woodworking guy and craftsman, possibly as prep for a paint job, might bevel the outside of the hole and carve a bung to fill it. Hammered in firmly with a spot of glue it is sawed off and sanded flush, primed and painted.

    Getting a call with animals and a desire to deter them in the short term, while I get materials and wait for the weather, I use a sudsy ammonia solution applied liberally with a spray bottle. Soak the area and inside the hole, after your sure they don’t have chicks, and the birds will fly off. Ammonia works on most animals.

    It is also an effective animal deterrent. A squirt of sudsy ammonia solution, the detergent allows it to soak in instead of rolling off the fur, and stray cats, dogs, raccoons, squirrels all tend to run off and generally hate life for a time. It is unpleasant enough that they don’t return very quickly.

  14. #14 David Owen-Cruise
    April 15, 2010

    No advice on the birds other than maybe duct-taping a cat next to the hole.

    But 9 out of 10 toddlers agree that shoe and sock application constitutes gross child abuse. Those toes just want to be free.

  15. #15 Steven Colyer
    April 15, 2010

    We had a similar hole but it was up by the chimney. Turns out it was squirrels. Not saying that’s your problem but if so, come ON Emmy! Stop napping on the job! LOL, kidding, it’s your fault for not letting her out enough. Kidding again! I have yet to see a canine catch a squirrel, but I have also yet not seen them fail to try. Good old Sisyphus.

    Long story short, we had to side the house. That fixed the problem. Squirrels are extremely territorial and stubborn. Here’s a big fat soup bone to the canine that actually catches one, someday. Or get a cat. I have seen them present squirrels to our back door, proud as punch. Old squirrels, I’m sure. :-) Now dead squirrels.

  16. #16 CCPhysicist
    April 15, 2010

    Looks to me like the chickadee is stealing your insulation for its nest. At least that is what it looks like it has in its beak. Where does it go when it leaves?

    I’d cover up the hole immediately, with anything at hand, once I was sure the bird had left.

  17. #17 Kat
    April 16, 2010

    I agree with many of the comments above.
    Black-capped or Carolina chickadee.
    Never heard of either making a hole like that, so I agree that either it was made by a different animal and the bird is just exploiting, or that area of your house was having major issues. I recommend steel wool to plug the hole, then cover with wood, paint etc as normal.

  18. #18 Tim
    April 25, 2010

    I think the animals and Mother Nature are fighting back against humans or else they just like screwing with us. Last fall, I discovered a woodpecker had drilled a number of holes in my wood siding. I covered it with tin foil and he went away. Today, I discovered a hole below my kitchen window sill outside the house. My wife said chickadees had been pecking at the site. I found hole about the size of a tennis ball into the area around the corner of the window. The site had been chalked before but apparently it is a rotten area. I noticed two small holes on another window sill. I covered and plugged all the holes. I am under attack or else my window frames are full of bugs and rotting to heck.

  19. #19 Carrie
    February 12, 2012

    This most certainly could be from the Chickadee. I wouldn’t have believed that they could have made a hole like this until I saw one making one in our house. We have been trying to scare it away every time it starts pecking, and no, there wasn’t a hole there to begin with that the Chickadee is working off of. We are going to try placing a bird house over the area like Lynea did (http://www.coloradoexplorers.com/blog/page/13). If this doesn’t work my husband is going to take other measures.