How do you attract woodpeckers to your yard?
This question is incredibly common, especially if you are new to bird feeding. Woodpeckers are not only beautiful, but they are incredibly unique and a ton of fun to watch.
And luckily, almost no matter where you live, multiple woodpecker species can be found.
- See the 17 types of woodpeckers that live in the United States and Canada! (Range maps included)
Today, I’m going to teach you 6 tips PROVEN to attract woodpeckers.
And the best part is that you can implement some of these strategies (such as tips #1, #2, #6) right away. Seriously, if you act on what I’m about to tell you, it’s possible to have woodpeckers in your yard within hours!
I love attracting woodpeckers! If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see one right now on my feeders. Just press play below to watch my LIVE cam! 😊
Tip #1: Attract Woodpeckers By Providing THESE Foods!
The BEST and EASIEST way to start getting woodpeckers to come to your yard is to make sure you are offering foods that they LOVE to eat.
So, in no particular order, here is a list of the foods you need to offer in your backyard buffet.
Peanuts are a great food to provide at your feeding station. Not only do woodpeckers love eating them, but they are healthy and provide a significant amount of fat and protein, both of which are important to birds, especially during cold winter months.
You can use either shelled or unshelled peanuts. Just make sure you don’t buy SALTED peanuts.
*Nutrition Info: 49% fat, 26% protein, 19% carbohydrates
B. Sunflower Seeds:
Most woodpecker species will readily consume sunflower seeds, especially in winter. You can use any type of sunflower seeds (black oil or striped), and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in or out of the shell.
One of the BEST parts about sunflower seeds is that they attract the widest amount of birds versus any other food. Seriously, you can expect cardinals, jays, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, grosbeaks, finches, nutcrackers, juncos, sparrows, blackbirds, doves, and grackles, in addition to woodpeckers!
*Nutrition Information: 40% fat, 16% protein, 20% carbohydrates
Because of their high fat and protein content, offering mealworms at your feeding station is a healthy treat for many backyard birds, including woodpeckers.
In fact, eating mealworms comes naturally to woodpeckers since they love eating insects.
There are two ways to purchase mealworms:
Using living mealworms is not as gross as it may sound. They are not slimy or kept in the dirt. When you purchase mealworms that are alive, they typically come in a small, plastic container and are kept in your refrigerator, where they go dormant and can survive for a few months!
*Nutrition Info: 22% fat, 18% protein, 2.5% carbohydrates View $ on Amazon
Buying dried mealworms is less hassle than keeping live mealworms in your fridge! For example, you can buy 5 pounds of them on Amazon for a relatively low cost.
*Nutrition Info: 32% fat, 49% protein, 6.9% carbs View $ on Amazon
Woodpeckers prefer eating live mealworms and may even reject dried mealworms at first. If this happens, you may need to combine both types to slowly introduce dried mealworms. Personally, it’s much more convenient to keep a big pouch of dried mealworms in my shed than having living ones in my refrigerator!
The most popular and commonly offered food that is offered to woodpeckers is suet.
My guess is that you have seen suet cakes before, as they are commonly sold almost everywhere, including grocery, hardware, and even pet stores. The standard suet cake size is about 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) long and wide and 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) deep. You can see a picture of one below:
So what exactly is in suet?
Well, in general, the term suet refers to the kidney fat found on animals. Many birds, such as woodpeckers, enjoy eating this fat because it provides them with essential energy and nutrition.
While the suet cakes you see sold in stores do contain some actual suet, they almost always have various other foods mixed inside. It’s common to find peanuts, sunflower, dried fruit, tree nuts, and corn mixed with the suet.
For example, here are the ingredients of a suet cake that I recently purchased.
There is no denying that woodpeckers LOVE suet. In my opinion, there is no better food to use to attract these wonderful birds.
And while square cakes are the most popular shape, suet also comes in the following varieties:
- A. Balls: Roughly the size of tennis balls that fit in many types of caged feeders.
- B. Nuggets: Typically slightly smaller than marbles. Nuggets also can be put in mesh feeders or on tray feeders.
- C. Plugs: Resemble a small log. These fit into suet feeders that are specially made to fit suet plugs. Suet plug feeders are typically vertical and resemble the side of a tree.
One last tip regarding suet:
I have had the best luck with suet that doesn’t contain corn or any other grains.
Woodpeckers prefer suet with foods like peanuts, sunflower seeds, and tree nuts mixed inside instead of grains.
Tip #2: Use one of these woodpecker-friendly feeders!
Now that we know the types of foods that woodpeckers can’t resist, it’s time to learn about the bird feeders you need to offer these foods!
Honestly, there are hundreds of bird feeders you could use. But for the sake of brevity, I am only going to show you a few examples of feeders that I own and WHY that particular style is good for woodpeckers.
A. Suet Cake Feeders:
- A. Stokes Suet Cage: Super inexpensive and works great. It can be hung almost anywhere.
- B. Kettle Moraine Double Suet Cage With Tail Prop: Includes the wooden tail prop, which woodpeckers use to hold their tails against, mimicking how they eat against a tree.
A feeder that can fit the standard suet cake is the gold standard for woodpecker feeders. They are typically characterized by having some sort of metal cage that the suet cake slips inside.
Woodpeckers can easily grab onto the edges and use their powerful beaks to chip away at the delicious suet.
You can even purchase INVERTED suet cake feeders, which require woodpeckers to eat while hanging upside down.
Woodpeckers have no problem feeding this way, but “bully” birds, like European Starlings, have trouble!
- RELATED: 3 Proven Ways to Prevent Starlings!
B. Mesh Tube Feeder:
This bird feeder is extremely versatile when attracting woodpeckers because many different types of foods can be placed inside. Suet balls, suet pellets, and peanuts all fit with no problems! View Today's Price!
The wire mesh is well suited for woodpeckers. They have no problem hanging off the side and fitting their pointy beaks inside. But many other birds can’t grasp onto the sides since there is no perch or fit their beak between the wire mesh!
C. Vertical Logs That Use Suet Plugs:
As far as aesthetics go, this woodpecker feeder is my favorite. I love how the log mimics the look and feel of how woodpeckers feed naturally on trees.
To use this feeder, you will need to buy suet plugs and insert them into the holes in the sides.
D. Hoppers, Tube Feeders, and Trays:
None of the above feeders are specially designed for woodpeckers.
BUT, as long as these types of feeders are filled with some combination of sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms, or peanuts, it’s entirely possible you can see a woodpecker feeding on one. I know that I have!
Honestly, you never know what exact feeder a woodpecker will land on to try and eat from. I have even seen them sampling jelly and oranges from my oriole feeders and slurping up hummingbird nectar!
Tip #3: Provide trees, trees, and more trees!
There is no getting around the fact that woodpeckers LOVE trees. The first thing most people think about when it comes to woodpeckers is one drumming against a tree!
They use them for shelter, nesting, display, and food. Unfortunately, if you live in a giant field devoid of trees, it’s going to be hard to attract woodpeckers.
Now I know that suddenly creating a mature forest of native trees is not possible. But it’s never too late to start planting more trees in your yard.
And as they say:
The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best time is TODAY! 😊
Tip #4: Don’t cut down any dead trees!
When most people see a dead tree, they think it’s an eye-sore that needs to be cut down.
But when a woodpecker sees a dead tree, they think they have won the lottery!
First, dead trees are an incredible food source. They are usually filled with beetle larvae and other insects that woodpeckers can feast upon.
Second, since dead trees are typically easier to bore into, woodpeckers use them to build nests. You see, woodpeckers don’t use traditional nests that sit out in the open on a tree branch.
No, woodpeckers are CAVITY nesters, which means they make holes in trees that are completely enclosed except for the entrance. Without dead trees, they have a much harder time finding a place to build a nest.
In addition, many other birds are cavity nesters, but they cannot make their own cavities. Bluebirds, for example, rely upon old woodpecker holes for their nests.
So next time you have a dead tree in your yard, please think twice before cutting it down. 😊
Tip #5: Install nest boxes to encourage baby woodpeckers!
In the previous tip (#4), we learned about how woodpeckers ONLY use nest cavities for breeding purposes and why dead trees are important.
Well, what if you don’t have any dead trees suitable for nesting woodpeckers in your yard?
Luckily, there is an easy solution.
Most types of woodpeckers will readily use artificial nest boxes to build their nests inside! By putting up appropriate nest boxes in your backyard, you not only can attract woodpeckers but also watch their babies.
But all nest boxes are not created equal. Specifically, you want to pay attention to the diameter of the entrance hole, as this dictates what species can use the nest box.
Here are some entrance hole diameter guidelines to follow for some common woodpecker species:
- Downy Woodpecker: 1.25 inches
- Hairy Woodpecker: 1.5 inches
- Pileated Woodpecker: 3 x 4-inch oval
- Red-bellied Woodpecker: 2.5 inches
Lastly, here are a few pre-made woodpecker nest boxes you can purchase.
And if you are handy, it’s also easy to make your own. Just Google “DIY woodpecker nest box,” and plenty of options will show up!
Tip #6: Attract woodpeckers by providing water!
The final way to get woodpeckers to visit your yard is to provide a constant, consistent water source.
So, how exactly do you accomplish this?
Well, unless you are lucky enough to have a stream or lake nearby, the best way to offer water is to buy a bird bath.
Honestly, there was a time when I didn’t think having a bird bath was that important, especially since they require a bit of maintenance to keep them fresh and clean.
But once I finally tried a bird bath, my opinion changed forever. Birds LOVE having a safe, clean water source. And the best part is that bird baths attract not only woodpeckers but also countless other species, including many birds that typically don’t visit bird feeders.
Seriously, check out this video of a Red-shouldered Hawk at my bird bath!
When it comes to bird baths, there are HUNDREDS of options, including many different styles. To help guide your decision, here are a few additional articles that will help.
12 Best Bird Baths To Consider This Year! (I own #5)
- Making sure that you have unfrozen water during a cold winter is one of the greatest things you can do for your birds. I think you will be amazed at the diversity of creatures that end up visiting.
Do you have any additional tips for attracting woodpeckers?
Today, I provided multiple strategies you can use to attract these entertaining birds to your yard. We talked about the best foods and feeders, along with ways to make the surrounding habitat appealing.
I’d love to know what strategies have worked best for you?
Please leave a comment below, along with the specific woodpecker species you have been able to attract!