Do Woodpeckers Eat Acorns?


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Woodpeckers happily drill and bash away at various trees to nest and feed – but what do they eat once they’ve made their holes? As it turns out, most woodpeckers are omnivorous – enjoying bugs, fruit, seed and more. But do woodpeckers eat acorns?

Woodpeckers will eat acorns if they’re available. This tends to be a preferred treat of specific types of bird – such as the acorn woodpecker, oddly enough! Acorns make up just a small part of a typical and varied woodpecker diet.

Which woodpeckers eat acorns?

Many woodpecker species will hunt for, eat and store acorns – but the acorn woodpecker is most famous for hoarding this tree-borne treat. This bird – famous for its relatively strange reproductive patterns – is a little more focused on acorns than most, making a point of hunting in fall to store for the winter.

The Melanerpes formicivorus is so intent on storing acorns, a single family will seek to fill a single tree with a cache of up to 50,000 in a single season! While acorns are naturally the preferred food of this woodpecker species, they will also hoard nuts and seeds of other varieties.

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Melanerpes formicivorus storing acorns

Other birds that follow the acorn woodpecker’s lead include the red-headed woodpecker or Melanerpes erythrocephalus. This acorn-sourcing Picidae will go one better than most, too, in that it will cover or ‘wrap’ the nuts and seeds it finds while storing. They even do the same with insects – and pack them deeply into trees for winter feeding.

The red-bellied woodpecker, or Melanerpes carolinus, is another acorn-loving bird. However, compared to the two species above, this woodpecker will mainly forage for fallen acorns and other nuts around garden and woodland flooring.

Not many birds choose to eat acorns because they are very tough to break into. The woodpecker, of course, is well-equipped with a fantastic beak to drill into the meat within.

Should I feed acorns to woodpeckers?

There is certainly no harm in feeding acorns to woodpeckers, particularly given the fact they are relatively high in protein and calories. Woodpeckers, like most birds heading into the winter, will need to store up on as much quick-fix energy as they can find. 

If you’d like to fill a woodpecker feeder with acorns, you should ideally do so with a mix of other treats. For example, woodpeckers happily feed on birdseed, given that it’s easy to swallow and just as rich in calories and nutrients to keep them pecking.

Above all, it’s worth prioritizing putting suet into your woodpecker feeder before acorns. This fatty cake, which you can make at home, is a proven favorite among most woodpeckers – and it often arrives with seeds and other treats baked in.

There isn’t much need to provide acorns to woodpeckers if there are oak trees nearby or in your garden. Your local birds will easily find fallen nuts – meaning it’s best to focus on filling their feeders with other snacks.

Do, of course, provide acorns to woodpeckers if the colder months are rolling in, particularly around fall. From September onwards, your local birds will be hunting for hardy, filling nuts to fill their tree hollows with – and you’ll help boost the woodpecker’s winter menu.

Will I attract woodpeckers to my garden with acorns?

There is nothing to say woodpeckers won’t visit your garden if you have acorns on offer. But, they are more likely to head to you if you ensure your yard is woodpecker-friendly in other ways.

Consider hanging a woodpecker feeder on a pole towards the edge of your garden or toward trees backing onto the local habitat. Woodpeckers prefer to feed away from other birds, and vertical feeders are easier for them to access. You can fill these feeders with acorns, suet, peanuts, and fruit – but make sure you invest in a squirrel-proof system, or your woodpeckers will have lots of furry competition.

Woodpeckers also look for shaded, wooded spots. They never like to be too far from the home comforts of a hollowed-out trunk, which means it’s worth setting up a feeding station close to a wooded nook of your garden – if you have one. Remember, too, that woodpeckers prefer mature trees – they actively peck at dying or deceased growths as they are easy to hollow and nest in and because there will likely be tasty bugs nesting within.

You’ll have a better time attracting woodpeckers with black sunflower seeds instead of acorns. These tasty, peckable snacks are high on the favorites list for many woodpeckers. Though, you may wish to prioritize acorns for the species listed above.

Are woodpeckers likely to be eating my acorns?

Woodpeckers will eat and store acorns, but it’s more likely you have local squirrels if you notice feeders full of these nuts going missing. The woodpecker demands a varied diet – which means it’s worth sharing sweet fruit, sunflower seeds, and suet cakes with them to make sure they’re fully satisfied.

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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