Do Woodpeckers Attack Other Birds?


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Woodpeckers can be commonly seen in gardens, where they forage for grubs and insects. These birds can be quite boisterous when they are pecking away on trees, and they have often been seen pecking at birdhouses and nesting boxes. Some people may wonder if they are being violent. Are woodpeckers attacking other birds?

Yes, woodpeckers do sometimes attack other birds. Specifically, they will attack eggs and baby birds that have been left alone in their nests.

Woodpeckers are foragers, meaning they don’t hunt and kill other birds for food. This doesn’t mean they won’t eat adult birds if they find their carcass; they just don’t directly attack them.

Baby birds are different, as woodpeckers see hatchlings as a succulent and nutritious addition to their diet. Unfortunately, this means that woodpeckers can be quite harmful to bird nests. They will peck away at the tree trunk or branch until the nest falls out, killing the baby birds in the process.

Woodpeckers Are Perfectly Equipped To Attack Nests

Woodpeckers are designed to peck away at trees and snags to find insects. The barbed tongues of woodpeckers are particularly suited for this task, as they can be inserted into crevices where other birds can’t go.

The design of their beaks allows them to chisel away at hard bark, and they will use the tip of their beaks for drumming. Some people think that a woodpecker’s call is them banging on a tree with its beak!

There are many reasons why woodpeckers peck. The most common reason is to excavate a cavity in a tree trunk to make a nest. Woodpeckers will also peck to intentionally make that drumming noise, which is used to attract a mate. This noise is also used as a way to mark their territory by making their presence loud and clear to other woodpeckers.

Unfortunately, one reason for this pecking is to crack open a birdhouse or other shelter that protects a nest so they can get at eggs and hatchlings.

Woodpeckers have been known to watch other birds and wait for them to leave a nest unguarded, then swoop in to take advantage of the treasure left behind. If the nest is well-protected by a bird box or tree trunk, the woodpecker will simply drill away at it until it can reach inside.

Sometimes the woodpeckers will eat the eggs or chicks right where they are, while other times it will fly them away to its own nest where it can eat in peace without having to worry about the parents returning.

Do woodpeckers eat baby birds?

While woodpeckers are unlikely to attack other adult birds, fledgling babies still in their nests are far from safe. Woodpeckers will use their sharp beaks to drill into their skulls and pull out the content with their barbed tongues.

For the woodpecker, this is no different than finding a particularly large grub or larva. It’s a fortunate day, as it’s found a much larger food supply than it typically would be able to get from a single source.

How To Protect Other Birds From Woodpeckers

The shy and elusive birds that we know as woodpeckers prefer to spend their time hunting from one tree to the next for insects and nuts. They are loners by nature and avoid the noisy areas frequented by other birds or humans. 

If you can provide them with plenty of food near their nests and the trees they prefer to spend time in, you should be able to keep them away from your other birds without any problems.

Fruit Bushes

There are several other things that you can do to attract woodpeckers to one area of your backyard and keep them there. You can start by planting fruit bushes around the bases of their trees. This will provide them with food and shelter. Whatever local berries grow well in your area are a great choice for this, like blueberries, elderberries, or strawberries. 

Platform Feeders

Woodpeckers like to perch while they eat, so providing them with platforms filled with their favorites will be a convenient way for them to get food. You can fill these platform feeders with peanuts, sunflowers seeds, suet, and peanut butter.

You can also smear the peanut butter or suet onto the bark of the tree itself and into any holes or gaps. This will provide an enrichment activity to distract the woodpeckers while they dig the creamy foodstuff out.

Sugar Water

Another great way to attract woodpeckers is to give them their own supply of sugary water. This will repel them from using the water that you have put out for other birds. If you already have a nectar feeder for hummingbirds, you’ll want to provide a different one for your woodpeckers. Their beaks are much larger and the smaller holes of hummingbird feeders will provide them with nothing but frustration. 

Oak or Pine Trees

Lastly, grow an oak or pine tree! This one is a long game, but it will make that corner of your yard the woodpeckers’ favorite for years to come. Woodpeckers build their nests in these trees, and they also like to eat acorns and pine nuts. This is especially true in the winter, when other food is scarce. 

With some or all of these woodpecker magnets in place, you should be able to keep them from taking interest in the other areas of your yard where songbirds like to reside.

Final Thoughts

Woodpeckers can be welcome visitors to any bird enthusiast’s yard. Your other adult birds are perfectly safe around them and are in no danger of being attacked. Woodpeckers do enjoy eating eggs and hatchlings, so you may want to take a few extra steps to ensure that the areas where your songbirds nest are not attractive spaces for your woodpeckers to visit.

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.


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