Do Woodpeckers Drink Water?


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Woodpeckers are magnificent creatures many of us would love to have in our gardens and backyards. Of course, there are many different ways to attract woodpeckers, but what about encouraging them to drink from a bird bath? Do woodpeckers drink water, on the whole?

Yes, woodpeckers do drink water occasionally, but many species get the hydration they need from the food they eat. However, some woodpecker species willingly drink from bird baths, providing you set them up close to ground level.

Let’s take a closer look at woodpecker drinking habits and how you can build the perfect bird bath for them to freely access.

Why do I rarely see woodpeckers drink?

Woodpeckers tend to eat a lot of berries and juicy morsels that contain the water they need to survive. It is only really a handful of species – such as the tiny downy woodpecker – that will enjoy flocking to bird baths for a drink or two.

Interestingly, it’s not unheard of to see woodpeckers enjoying sugar water from hummingbird feeders, either. Though this behavior may be rare depending on the food available in the local area, it’s worth remembering that woodpeckers, alongside hummingbirds, will enjoy a tasty, sugary treat once in a while.

What’s more, woodpeckers are relatively shy birds, and they do not like big open spaces or being around too many other animals. That’s why they might be rare sightings in your yard despite the fact they are local to your area. It’s worth looking at a list of woodpecker species in the US to see what’s common to your area and what isn’t!

It’s important to note that you can’t rely on water alone to attract woodpeckers to your yard. Yes – they will need fresh water to drink occasionally (as do all creatures), but when it comes to driving woodpecker populations to your yard, it may be worth considering the types of food woodpeckers eat as a priority.

Do woodpeckers use bird baths?

Despite woodpeckers rarely drinking water directly compared to other birds, it’s still a great idea to set up a bird bath for them just in case. 

You will need to, first of all, find a relatively well-sheltered, quiet area of your yard. Ideally, woodpeckers like to have plenty of branches and perches around them – and your bird bath should be fairly close to the ground. Even positioning the bird bath on the ground outright may be helpful!

Opt for a bath that is between one to two inches deep, offering plenty of fresh water to drink and bathe in. 

To entice woodpeckers to enjoy the bird bath, you can use a solar bird bath pump or a bubbler to help bring them closer.

Of course, it is essential to note that your bird bath will need to be heated in the winter months – it’s best to use bird bath heaters and deicers to keep the water from freezing.

Remember to keep the bath full and refreshed during the summer months, when familiar woodpeckers may come to rely on your bird bath. Wild birds taken into care by veterinarians can arrive dehydrated – which is why keeping water topped up is always a good idea.

Keeping your bird bath clean

There are multiple reasons why cleaning out your bird bath is so important (and not just for woodpeckers). As any visiting woodpeckers are likely to use this area for general bathing as well as hydration, said bath is likely to get dirty relatively quickly. If you leave it for too long, then the water will no longer be clean enough for the birds, and they will find other sources to flock to. To keep your woodpeckers coming back, you’re going to need to refresh it at least daily.

However, the biggest reason why it is so important to change their water is related to disease. By changing the water and cleaning the bird bath regularly with a bird bath enzyme cleaner, you will help to limit the spread of algae and diseases between different birds. 

For example, experts recommend regularly cleaning bird baths, period, to avoid spreading salmonella. This can spread to humans – so you’re protecting yourself, not just your wild visitors.


As with many wild birds, it can be difficult for woodpeckers to feel safe enough to take a bath just anywhere. As a responsible wild yard owner, you’ll need to take care to keep feeders and baths clean, and to keep any water sources close to the ground – this is just what woodpeckers prefer!

Naturally, understanding woodpeckers’ drinking habits is one of several elements to ensuring your wild yard is perfect for them. While setting up a ground-level birdbath is a great idea in many ways, it’s also worth remembering that woodpeckers can attack other birds – possibly even those using the same areas! So, always be sure to plan your feeding and drinking areas with care.

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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