( Latin: Isoptera )

These birds are specialised for life in trees. They climb with the help of strong claws and use the powerful chisel-shaped bill for chopping a way through bark and soft wood in order to reach insect larvae, and also for making their nest holes.

They are rarely regarded as pests but in certain cases they have been known to turn their attention to the external timber of a house. This is mainly done by the black woodpecker (Dendrocopus martius) and the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus major).

Normally woodpeckers hack timber, in order to reach food, but sometimes they will attack fresh timber, and nearly always do this in order to make a chamber to spend the night in. In some cases they apparently run amok and hack one hole after another. The most likely explanation is that if the result is not satisfactory they will try again and again. Desperate house owners have been known to shoot woodpeckers, even though they are now totally protected in most countries.

Normally woodpeckers can be deterred from these attacks by hanging up strips of aluminium foil or by stretching nylon threads back and forth across the parts of the house that are attacked.