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Did you know there are more than 20 different species of woodpecker that are native to the US? What you may not know, also, is that you can easily introduce one or two of them to your backyard. With that in mind, what’s the best woodpecker food you can put out to attract these wonderful birds?
In the wild, woodpeckers love to forage for nuts, acorns, and some even drink sap from tree bark – but they will happily eat fruit, seeds and various nuts you put out for them, too.
In this guide, we will take a look at some of the best foods you can attract woodpeckers with from season to season.
What do woodpeckers like to eat?
In the wild, you will often find that woodpeckers enjoy eating a variety of nuts, fruits, and insects. In fact, some species don’t peck at wood to get food – some will snatch bugs out of the air, such as the Lewis’s Woodpecker.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that these birds, while famous for drilling and hammering into tree bark, tend to enjoy a fairly varied palate! As such, it’s a good idea to try and keep their feeders stocked up with a nice variety of quick snacks, too.
Woodpeckers work hard to get at food and to keep it away from intruders. Therefore, you will be doing them a fantastic favor or two. What’s more, it may even prevent some of the noisier specimens from hammering so much on trees close by! Save your ears – and give your local woodpeckers a treat.
If you’re wondering which woodpecker species are likely to live closest to you, why not take a look at our guide to the 22 woodpecker species of the US?
Woodpecker food to fill your feeder with
Time after time, the following goodies will always be popular treats for woodpeckers.
Peanuts are fantastic woodpecker favorites, and the best part is that you may not even need to shell them. However, you must be careful to include peanuts in your feeder that are free from any additional flavorings and added salt – none of this will be healthy for the odd bird to peck away at!
It stands to reason that a bird who loves peanuts will also be partial to peanut butter. What’s really interesting here is that you won’t need to put any of it in a feeder – there’s no need to be so formal! Instead, make sure to spread it thickly on nearby tree bark – the woodpecker will do the rest. You can also fill holes with the snack, too.
Once again, be careful with added flavors or even low sugar varieties. Pure, unadulterated peanut butter is always the best way to go.
Woodpeckers don’t always go for fruit in the wild, but certain sweet goodies are perfectly healthy for them to peck away at in your bird feeder. For example, why not slice up a bit of apple, or segment oranges for them to snack on?
Woodpeckers will also enjoy eating grapes from bird feeders, however, it’s worth remembering that raisins and sultanas won’t do – these are often processed out of the box, and as such, aren’t considered natural!
Sunflower seeds are favorite snacks for woodpeckers – some species more than others – meaning that stacking these up with peanuts and grapes will normally attract a fair flock to your yard. You don’t have to hull sunflower seeds, either – as the woodpeckers have all the equipment they need to break into them and enjoy. Many varieties of seeds and nuts are great for feeding woodpeckers in the winter as well, when most of their other food sources aren’t as readily available.
If you’ve ever fed wild birds before, you’ll know that you can feed some on dried mealworms – but with woodpeckers, you may be able to go one better. These birds will happily munch on live mealworms, especially those that tap into tree bark to look for grubs and larvae.
You are doing woodpeckers a huge favor by taking away the work of having to peck and drill – they’ll love coming back again and again.
Suet tends to be a winning option for most woodpeckers, though this may be a trial and error option. As such, be prepared to try a few different options before you start seeing regular flocks of woodpeckers emerging.
You can actually make suet yourself, but if you ask us, it’s safer to go for a pre-made option, either canned or in a packet. You’ll need a woodpecker feeder to pack the suet into for the best results.
Will these foods guarantee woodpecker visitors?
Not always – there are some conditions that will need to encourage woodpeckers to visit. They can be timid birds, meaning that noisy gardens may not always be the best spot for feeders. They will also take a closer look at feeders if they are lacking food in their local environment, or if they are stocking up before migrating.
If you have any specific tips on how to encourage woodpeckers to visit your yard, we’d love to hear them. In fact, our full guide on how to attract woodpeckers is a great place to start if you are struggling. Please comment below if you have any ideas of your own that work wonders for you!