Do Woodpeckers Eat Bird Seed?


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You’ll be highly lucky to welcome a woodpecker to any wild yard – they are fantastic natural pest controllers! That said, there is some confusion out there over what these avians prefer to feast on at the feeder. Do woodpeckers eat bird seed, for example?

Woodpeckers love eating seeds. If you want to welcome woodpeckers to your garden, it’s a good idea to serve a mess of seeds these birds prefer, alongside a host of other treats.

What bird seed attracts woodpeckers?

It’s best to attract woodpeckers with a variety of seeds, not just a general bird seed mix you may find in your local pet store. For example, the average woodpecker enjoys munching away at sunflower seeds. Not only are they tasty, but they’re also rich in protein, which will help to provide strength to endure heavy drilling action!

If you live in an area of the US replete with hairy woodpeckers (as well as the downy species), be sure to set out black oil sunflower seeds in particular. These seeds will also attract and appeal to cardinals and goldfinches, too, as well as a variety of songbirds.

Beyond sunflower seeds, woodpeckers don’t tend to be too demanding – they will happily peck away at most seeds and even store them away for winter. Feeding woodpeckers on seed during the colder months is a fantastic idea – they are usually abundant towards winter. Woodpeckers may also prefer tree sap during the winter, though a well-stocked feeding table will still attract birds.

Is bird seed the best food to attract woodpeckers?

Seed can and will attract woodpeckers to your garden – but the best way to attract woodpeckers to any yard is to provide a variety of different treats and staple foods. 

Above all, invest in suet – a peckable block of nutrition that’s often made from beef fat, and which can include seeds, nuts, and other hidden goodies. Woodpeckers love drilling away at suet blocks and blends, but they also love eating peanuts, cracked corn, and will happily feed on any dried or live mealworms you provide.

Some species of woodpecker prefer specific types of food, too. For example, the acorn woodpecker’s name may give its tastes away. While enjoying a mixed diet of seeds, nuts, and fruit, this species devours acorns more than most other picidae.

The best way to attract woodpeckers to your yard is to set up a table and feeder close to local trees they may feed on and nest in. Woodpeckers prefer to drill at trees that are either dying, already dead, or full of insects and grubs. Before heading to your feeder, woodpeckers may feast on termites to get their fill of easy protein.

How you set up your woodpecker food is more important than what you actually provide. Woodpeckers don’t enjoy feeding at the same tables and areas as other birds – many species are quite shy and retiring (when not making tons of noise!). The highly bashful pileated woodpecker, for example, is unlikely to start a fight.

Regardless of the seed you set out for woodpeckers, make sure that their feeding zone is far away from your ‘usual spot’.

Do woodpeckers use bird feeders?

Yes – woodpeckers will happily drill away at bird feeders to get at seeds, fruit, and nuts, though it’ll need to be an ‘exclusive’ feeding zone. When setting up a woodpecker feeder, it’s best to hang it vertically so that your birds can easily perch and peck. This helps to make food more accessible, as woodpeckers will normally feed upright at their favorite trees and nesting sites.

Be warned – suet can prove highly attractive for other garden visitors, too. If you hang suet or put seeds into a traditional bird feeder, it’s likely that other birds – and squirrels – will want to steal some of your woodpeckers’ intended food. I’d recommend setting up a woodpecker feeder that’s specifically built with these birds in mind.

Several woodpecker feeders, for example, are pole-mounted and are designed to prevent squirrels from getting into suet. Many are built to hold multiple suet cakes at once, which will allow woodpeckers to fill up with significant seeds!

Should I give bird seed to woodpeckers?

There’s no harm in feeding seed to woodpeckers, but do make sure you buy from a reputable bird seed provider. Alternatively, if you provide woodpeckers with seeds intended for human consumption, take care. Be sure that any seeds you place in a feeder or leave on a table are free from salt, sugar, or any other additives or artificial flavorings.

Woodpeckers will readily eat bird seed, though be sure to provide them as part of a wide and varied diet. Prepare fruit, suet, and peanuts in their feeders – and providing your feeding spot is secluded and close enough to their woodland homes, you’ll soon attract woodpeckers across the seasons.

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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