How to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Yard

Two Parts:Making Your Yard More Attractive to WoodpeckersMaking Your Yard More Attractive to Other Birds

Woodpeckers are beautiful, unusual birds found across North America in dense and sparsely wooded areas as well as suburban yards with trees. They eat large amounts of unwanted insects and provide birders with hours of entertainment. Because they tend to stay in the same range throughout the year, it is possible to spot them year-round. Here are some ways to attract woodpeckers to your yard

Part 1
Making Your Yard More Attractive to Woodpeckers

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    Know your woodpeckers. There are many species of woodpecker found throughout North America. Knowing which ones you may encounter based on your location can help you sort out the feed and placement of feeders and other things that attract woodpeckers.
    • The Downy Woodpecker is checkered with black and white and is found all over the United States and parts of Canada. This woodpecker enjoys suet feeders and loves the challenge of an upside-down feeder.
    • The Hairy Woodpecker is similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, though it has a much longer beak and is fairly shy in comparison with its look-alike. These woodpeckers are also found through the United States and in parts of Canada, and have been spotted in areas as far south as Mexico. This bird does not typically eat from feeders.
    • The Northern Flicker is a polka-dotted woodpecker that is found all over North America--even down to Central America. When in flight, you can see spots of yellow and red and are typically covered in unique black markings. These birds tend to feed on insects on or near the ground, though they will eat from feeders on occasion.
    • Pileated, Red-headed, and Red Bellied Woodpeckers are found primarily in the Eastern United States. Pileated Woodpeckers are large crow-sized birds that are mostly black with a red crest and white lines near the throat. These birds rarely eat from feeders. The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a rare bird whose population may be encouraged with bird houses. This bird's diet includes fruit, seeds, nuts, other small birds, and small rodents. The Red Bellied Woodpecker is medium sized and displays a bright red head and belly on a mostly black body. This bird is known to eat at suet and nut feeders.
    • Lewis's Woodpecker and the Red-Naped Sapsucker are two rarer species that are located primarily in the western United States. Lewis's Woodpeckers are medium-sized birds with gray chests, a dark red face, and a pinkish belly. They are insect eaters who glean their meals from the surfaces of trees. Red-Naped Sap Suckers are found in the lower regions near the Rocky Mountains. They tend to favor sap from the willow trees, but are known to eat from other trees as well.
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    Choose the right feed. Woodpeckers love nuts, insects, seeds, and are attracted to feeders offering them what they would love to munch on in the wilds. By offering the right food selection, you can attract a broad range of species into your yard.
    • Suet is hard fat located around the organs in beef and mutton. It is also well-loved by most woodpeckers. Suet comes in cakes and can be placed in special upside-down feeders that discourage starlings--an invasive bird species--while still allowing chickadees and woodpeckers to feed.[1]
    • It is not recommended that you feed birds suet during warm summer months as the suet can melts and get on bird wings. This is dangerous because summer months coincide with egg incubation and suet on eggs shells clogs poor, preventing oxygen from getting to the embryo.[2]
    • Nuts and seeds, specifically peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds, are well-loved by woodpeckers and are relatively cheap feed options.
    • Fruit is another food happily consumed by most woodpeckers. Cut up oranges and apples are especially attractive and contain a lot of nutrients important for this active bird's health.
    • Meal worms are the larvae of the the beetle Tenebrio molitor. They should be placed in feeders that are deep enough to prevent them from wriggling free. Meal worms can last for weeks from the purchase date if maintained at 40–50 °F (4–10 °C).[3]
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    Choose the right feeder. Though woodpeckers spend a majority of their time looking for natural food sources like beetle larvae, spiders, ants and other insects, you can attract these tough-beaked birds to your yard by making wise choices about your feeder station.
    • Upright feeders will support the birds' eating positions comfortably.
    • Position feeders to mimic birds' natural feeding preferences. Suet stations, for example, will be far more effective and popular near a tree.
    • Place your feeders in more quiet locations to make the birds feel secure. Well-lit, sunny areas are also preferable as this aids visibility for always-vigilant woodpeckers.
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    Provide water. Woodpeckers will visit bird baths to drink and bathe. They prefer a quieter, more private bath close to the ground. Make sure the bath is fairly shallow--1½"-2".
    • Try placing a small fountain with a running water pump in a shady area away from the center of the yard. To encourage the woodpeckers to use the bath, you might place low perches around the bath.
    • During cold winter months, you must be vigilant about ice forming in fountains. The easiest and most ecologically efficient way to provide water to birds during these months is to set out a plastic bowl of water at the same time every day. Retrieve this bowl any time you see ice forming.
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    Provide shelter. As with most birds, woodpeckers love privacy and the ability to hide. Coniferous and deciduous trees both provide shelter and act as a food source for woodpeckers. Planting a number of those types of trees in a small area will allow the woodpeckers to feel secure.
    • Planting scrubby shrubs at the base of these trees will provide additional security for woodpeckers, and can also provide them with additional food sources.
    • Some woodpeckers, like the pileated, love dead trees. Instead of having them removed, try keeping them on your property to encourage roosting and even nesting.
    • Consider placing a roosting box in your backyard during winter months. Choosing the right location for the nesting box is very important. Try to place the box close to vegetation the woodpeckers frequent. Placing the boxes higher off the ground and on poles can protect against predators. You can purchase these boxes, or make your own. They should have drainage and ventilation holes, be easy to clean and built sturdily.[4]

Part 2
Making Your Yard More Attractive to Other Birds

Woodpeckers are just the beginning. If you want to begin your career as a backyard birder, there are many things you can do and just as many species for you to attract.

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    If you don't live in an area with woodpeckers, you may consider a common bird. Take some first steps towards becoming a backyard blue birder.
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    During those cold winter months, you may consider helping out a fewchilly songbirds.
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    If you feel like channeling your crafty handyman side, consider building your very own sparrow nest box, or birdbath.
  4. Image titled Attract Woodpeckers to Your Yard Step 9
    Feeling like a planning a birding trip? Learn the basics from preparation to the best places to find the birds you're after.


  • If you are looking for planting ideas to encourage woodpeckers into your yard, consider pines (for their sap) and oaks (woodpeckers love to eat acorns).
  • Check suet cakes regularly as they become rancid quickly. You can either purchase them from a reputable bird food supplier, or make your own.


  • Be aware of predators. Cats, raccoons, snakes, and other outdoor critters can pose a huge threat to eggs and young chicks. There are guards or baffles you can purchase to place outside the nest box that will deter these predators safely and humanely.
  • Maintain nesting boxes regularly. Invasive, aggressive species such as European Starlings can commandeer nests and destroy eggs and chicks.

Article Info

Categories: Birds | Feeding Birds