Ask any bird enthusiast to tell you what do woodpeckers eat, and you’ll get many different answers. You may hear drumming sounds their beaks make while creating holes on a tree trunk and wonder what these amazing birds are up to.
As they use their powerful beaks to dig out nesting holes to breed and raise a family, they also search for food. About 23 different woodpecker species are residing in North America. They usually stay in the same spot all year round and do not migrate.
You can find them in various habitats, including open woodlands, farmlands, oak and pine woods, orchards, parks, and gardens. While the seasons change, they alter their roles to leverage the readily available foods to meet their nutritional demands.
Woodpeckers are pretty beautiful and exciting to watch from your backyard. Plus, they are very beneficial to the environment as they get rid of nasty insects and pests.
Therefore, many people tend to attract them to their backyards. Like other bird species, you can attract woodpeckers to your backyard using their favorite foods. Knowing what do woodpeckers eat will help you place the best woodpecker foods at their eating spots and get remarkable memories watching them.
This article will identify and discuss the best foods that woodpeckers eat and bring them to your yard.
Suet is probably the most favorite food for woodpeckers. That’s because suet has a taste they like. Besides that, it is a very high-energy food that is easy to eat and get digested. This food is usually the best food to give woodpeckers during winter when other foods are scarce.
The good thing is that woodpeckers are not choosy. So, they won’t mind if the suet comes directly from the butcher or homemade. In short, any suet is excellent though you can buy suet blocks that come with other food blends like fruits, insects, and nuts.
Using feeders offers a great way to place the suet cakes for the woodpeckers to eat and enjoy. They tend to keep suet inside the cage, meaning that woodpeckers can easily peck inside to feed on it. Make sure the suet feeders are firmly anchored to support the weight of several woodpeckers.
Additionally, you can smear your backyard tree trunks with suet to attract these birds. But ensure you check if frequently to remove old suet, which may produce a smell that will scare away woodpeckers from eating.
Wood trunks and branches often provide an incredible home for insects. When you see or hear woodpeckers pecking on wood, it is simply that they are looking for insects to prey on.
These birds love anything to do with insects. This means that they eat insects, their eggs, and even larvae. Interestingly, woodpeckers will drill into the wood with utmost accuracy to find them.
Practically, woodpeckers eat nearly all insects, especially wood-boring insects, including ants, grasshoppers, and spiders. You can attract these birds by placing any such insects on their feeders. Other than that, you can leave live or dried mealworms on the feeders as they also like that.
3. Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Rich in fats and proteins, peanuts are also another common food choice for woodpeckers. Whether shelled or unshelled, they are incredibly delicious snacks that woodpeckers like to eat up. But, be careful not to use flavored or salted peanuts as they can be pretty harmful to the birds.
Putting the nuts in feeders is the best option to feed these birds. That’s because they will unlikely drop the peanuts all over the backyard and invite other unwanted visitors. They also feed on pine nuts and acorns.
So, you can be sure to plant oak trees or pine trees if you want these beautiful birds to come to your backyard. Moreover, they also like peanut butter, which means that you can smear it on tree trunks just like suet.
i. Sunflower Seeds
Woodpeckers also like eating seeds, especially sunflower seeds. These seeds are oily and provide an excellent source of nutrients needed to maintain the woodpecker’s bodies and feathers.
Whether whole or hauled, you can place sunflower seeds in a woodpeckers’ feeder or on a platform feeder to grant them easy access. This will also allow other pretty birds to join them in eating and give you a wonderful bird watching experience right from the comfort of your backyard.
Apart from that, you can use seed cakes as an excellent way to feed these birds on sunflower seeds. The good thing is that these cakes often contain a blend of other foods such as fruits and nuts, hence great for woodpeckers. Plus, you can easily drop the cakes inside the feeders and let the birds enjoy.
ii. Pine seeds
Pine seeds are usually found inside pine cones. These seeds are incredibly rich in nutrients, thus excellent food for their well-being. And woodpeckers can easily use their beak and barbed tongue to extract these seeds from pine cones that have fallen.
So, you can grow pine trees in your yard to attract woodpeckers. They will love the kind of shelter the trees provide and also eat the pine seeds.
Like any bird, woodpeckers like the sweet and sugary taste found in fruits. They are a great energy source for their bodies to fly around, well-being, and stay active.
The fruits these birds like most include grapes, strawberries, holly berries, apples, cherries, and grapes. They are the best food source for these birds during cold winters where there are no visible insects to prey on.
If you want to attract woodpeckers, consider planting a berry plant or fruit bushes in your backyard. If you already have these fruit bushes, you will possibly see them feeding on the ripe fruits. Other than that, these birds will like the comfortable shelter the fruit bushes provide and attract even more birds.
You can also leave a ripe fruit on a feeder for them to feed on the flesh and sugary water. However, check the fruits more often as their sugar is likely to mold very fast during a warmer season. And this will most likely not attract woodpeckers.
6. Sugar Water (Nectar)
Most bird enthusiasts tend to put nectar on feeder ports for their favorite birds. Similarly, woodpeckers will likely drink it if they can access the nectar. Plenty of woodpeckers often relish the sugar water, or nectar most hummingbird feeders have.
If they comfortably reach the nectar with comfort, the better. Some of these hummingbird feeders boast tiny feeding ports, and this makes it hard for woodpeckers to feed on the nectar inside.
To provide these birds with a nectar treat, ensure you choose a hummingbird feeder with larger ports to accommodate their bills. Alternatively, you can make a sugar-water feeder specifically for woodpeckers.
You will find some woodpecker species eating out the sap from trees. This is usually common during the times of the year where the supply of other foods is scarce. Trees like pine tend to provide great sap for these birds; hence you can consider planting them in your backyard.
In a Nutshell: Tips for Attracting Woodpeckers to your Backyard
Ultimately, attracting woodpeckers to your yard is very easy. Just avail a variety of sources of their favorite foods, and you’ll see them come on after another. Below are some of the summarized tips you can try to invite these birds and enjoy watching them.
Use natural foods
Natural foods are the easiest way to entice these birds and satisfy their appetites. Some of the best ways to avail natural foods for woodpeckers include:
- Avoiding using an insecticide that kills insects
- Planting bushes and fruit-bearing trees, especially those that retain some fruits into winter for the birds
- Planting oak trees to avail acorns
- Planting pine trees to provide shelter, pine seeds, and sap
- Growing seed-bearing flowers like sunflowers which the woodpeckers can cling to the dry sunflower heads to eat the seeds straight from plants.
Use Common Foods
- Suet, especially one that contains a mix of nuts, fruits, and insects
- Fruits like oranges, apples, berries, grapes, etc.
- Whole or shelled sunflower seeds or pine seeds
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Live or dried mealworms
- Sugar water like in a hummingbird’s feeder with large ports for woodpeckers to sip
Common Feeders that Woodpecker like
- Suet cake baskets
- Suet plug feeders
- Suet ball feeders
- Birdseed cylinder feeder
Other than understanding what do woodpeckers eat, knowing their nesting options can help you attract these noisy and lovely birds to your yard. You can;
- Mount woodpecker houses on walls, fence, or trees around your yard
- Plant pine trees and bush fruit trees in your yard.
- Set up a snag in your backyard. It can be a tree stump or an old dead tree that provides food and nesting sites.
Woodpeckers are beautiful birds, and any birder will do anything to entice them to their backyards. With different species of woodpeckers available in various parts of the world, availing only one type of food won’t work effectively.
That’s because each species has its favorite foods and cannot enjoy the same foods. Besides, they all need different blends of sugar, fats, and proteins for their nutritional needs.
So, make sure to use a mixture of foods and keep them fresh always. By doing so, you can be sure to attract a variety of species of woodpeckers to your backyard and have a fantastic bird watching experience. Good luck!
- Check out our article on the 6 Best Feeders that are ideal for woodpeckers.
- Starlings and woodpeckers are eternal enemies. Starlings love to scope out a woodpecker’s nest and take it as their own — if you want to protect your woodpecking friends, this article is a must read: How To Get Rid Of Starlings (10 Tips And Tricks)