If you were to ask others if they thought woodpeckers ate other birds, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they do not. Woodpeckers have a reputation for being noisy and a bit of a pest, but not for eating other birds. The reality is that some species do sometimes eat chicks.
What do woodpeckers eat?
Woodpeckers will forage for food which is why they drill in to the bark on trees. They eat mainly insects, as well as seeds and sometimes fruit. Some species, such as the red-headed woodpecker and the red-bellied woodpecker, do sometimes eat other birds – we’ve put together an article on their favourite foods here!
They don’t hunt and kill them like prey though. As foragers woodpeckers find their food where they can and this includes from other birds’ nests, and they will take eggs and chicks from nesting boxes and nests. Appearances can be deceptive, as they can be quite merciless when they eat. Some species will also eat lizards, mice and on occasion, adult birds.
There is no evidence to suggest that they attack other birds because of a shortage of other foodstuffs but this may be a factor. If you have woodpeckers in your garden, then you can keep them well stocked with food items so that other birds nesting in your garden may be left alone.
How to keep woodpeckers away from other birds
On the whole, woodpeckers prefer to be away from the noise and activity of other birds, so if you have an area in your garden with trees, this would be a good place to set up your woodpecker feeders. They are more likely to eat food which is close to home than start foraging in other busier areas of the garden.
- Oak and pine trees. Trees won’t grow overnight but as a long-term strategy it’s a great place to start. Woodpeckers love acorns and pine nuts and can use the trunk to build their nests.
- Platform feeders. Woodpeckers like somewhere to perch when they feed, so platform feeders work well. You can place a few of these underneath the trees and place a variety of foods on them. Some of the foods you can use are peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet cakes and seed blocks.
- Suet and peanut butter. These are two very popular foods for woodpeckers, and you can smear these on to the bark of the tree or use them to fill in any gaps or holes. The woodpeckers will have fun digging these foods out of the tree.
- Fruit bushes. If you plant some fruit bushes at the bottom of the trees, the woodpeckers can fly down and eat the fruit. Strawberries, blueberries and elderberries are just a few suggestions.
- Sugar water. If you have sugar water feeders for other birds, the woodpeckers may be attracted to it. They won’t attack the other birds who use it, but they will need a larger port to get to the sugar water. Instead of allowing them to take the sugar water intended for other birds, you can set up their own sugar water feeder in their own area of the garden.
Woodpeckers will only attack other birds if they are invading their territory, so you don’t need to worry about them killing other birds in your yard. The truth is woodpeckers are generally shy and will keep away from other birds, and not all species will invade another nest.