Feeding Woodpeckers

In the Wild
Woodpecker habitats have lots of woody plants that harbor insects for food and provide nesting sites. Woodies also eat fruits and seeds from a variety of woody shrubs and trees. Downy woodpeckers are attracted to Pagoda dogwood, Gray dogwood, apple, serviceberry, hophornbeam and wax myrtle. Hairy woodpeckers like Sitka mountainash, oak, serviceberry and apple trees.

Northern flickers favor apple, black cherry, tupelo, flowering crabapple, many kinds of dogwood, white oak, common hackberry, common spicebush, arrowwood viburum, flowering currant, golden currant, western thimbleberry, sumac, California pepper tree, pine, walnut, black gum, serviceberry, holly, redcedar, bayberry and sugarbush.

At the Feeder
Because animal fats and protein are staples of their diets, woodpeckers love suet. Most prefer to feed from a hanging net or bag type feeder or a log with holes drilled into it which are stuffed with animal fats from the kitchen. A suet cake in a cage suet feeder, or a simple netted onion bag filled with suet will attract these birds to your yard. They will also sample cornbread, peanut butter and sunflower hearts. Some, such as the red-bellied woodpecker, visit feeder trays or platforms for sunflower seeds, fruit, peanut butter or cornmeal treats. Many will also sample coconut, banana and American cheese. Protect orchard and garden fruits from the occasional woodpecker visit with bird netting or a hot pepper repellent spray.

Be sure to have fresh water available to woodpeckers and all visiting birds year round. During winter freezes and summer droughts natural water sources are often unavailable. Establish a water feature in your yard with a fountain or waterfall running all the time or put out a self filling birdbath on the property.

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