How To Attract Pileated Woodpeckers [6 Simple Tips To Follow]

how to attract pileated woodpeckers

Pileated woodpeckers are intriguing birds that many bird lovers would love to attract to their gardens. Is there a secret to attracting these bright birds to come and visit you?

There are, in fact, some proven ways that you can try and attract pileated woodpeckers to your garden. Primarily, you want to provide them with a food source that they enjoy, have plenty of trees and shrubs, make sure you have water available and give them somewhere to build their nests.

We’re going to discuss these tips in more detail, but first let’s learn where these birds are commonly found in the United States.

Where Are Pileated Woodpeckers Commonly Found?

Pileated woodpeckers are commonly found in mature forests right along the eastern part of the United States and along the southern parts of Canada including parts of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. They can also be found around Washington, Oregon, Idaho and the northern parts of California.

They are non-migratory birds so they inhabit these areas all year round. This includes breeding and raising their young.

Pileated woodpeckers can be identified as large birds and are about the size of a crow. Their feathers are mostly black except that they have white stripes on both their face and their neck. Their most outstanding feature is the bright red crest on top of their head. Male birds also have a red stripe on their cheeks while on the female, this stripe is black.

Now, let’s discuss ways that you can attract these beautiful and interesting birds into your yard.

Provide Them With The Food That They Love

In their native habitats, pileated woodpeckers prefer to eat insects. In fact, their favorite insect is the carpenter ant. They find these under the bark of both trees that are alive and also dead trees.

Other insects that these birds like include flies, caterpillars, beetle larvae, termites, cockroaches and grasshoppers. Interestingly, around 25% of their diet also consists of nuts and wild fruits.

One of the best times to attract pileated woodpeckers to your yard is during the fall and winter. This is because their favorite food source, insects, may be a little scarce. This is precisely one of the major reasons that you should have your feeders out all year round.

Foods that you should offer in your feeders include suet, shelled peanuts, bark butter, safflower and sunflower seeds and a fruit and nut seed mix that is designed for songbirds.

If you have a few large trees in your yard, you could consider putting some suet feeders on the sides of these trees. This is especially prudent in winter when the birds are finding it harder to forage for food.

Not only will this provide some food for any pileated woodpeckers that might be around but it will also be welcome by many other birds that have stayed put over the winter.

DON’T MISS: Our fantastic guide to woodpeckers!

Make Sure Your Feeders Are Large Enough

Remember that pileated woodpeckers are quite large, so you need feeders that are large enough to make it comfortable for the birds to get a feed. Also consider that woodpeckers generally cling onto the sides of trees to forage for insects under the bark.

Therefore, consider feeders that are around 16 to 19 inches long and that have suitable parts for the birds to grip onto with their claws. There are many suet feeders that have a cage for the food and a longer section below the cage to help support the tail end of the bird.

Log style feeders are also ideal. Especially the ones that have holes that you can also fill with nuts or even peanut butter along with the suet.

In fact, you can even buy feeders that are especially made for woodpeckers. These are usually in the shape of a vertical log with holes in the sides that you can stuff with food. The idea behind these types of feeders is that they simulate the shape of a tree that the woodpecker can cling onto while it’s enjoying its feed.

Give The Woodpeckers Somewhere To Forage

By now you’re aware that these woodpeckers love foraging for insects under the bark of trees. And, dead trees are ideal for this. Therefore, if you happen to have some dead or dying trees in your yard, leave them there.

Not only might these trees attract the woodpeckers because they offer a handy food source under their bark but they will also provide possible nesting places for the birds to raise their young.

Therefore, leaving some dead trees lying around your property is one of the best things you can do to attract pileated woodpeckers.

Plant Trees And Shrubs That Will Bear Fruit Or Berries

As we’ve already learned, pileated woodpeckers also consume a fair volume of native fruits and berries. Therefore, you might want to consider planting some of the following trees and shrubs in your yard.

  • Holly
  • Dogwood
  • Elderberry
  • Greenbrier
  • Persimmon
  • Hackberry
  • Blackberries
  • Sassafras
  • Sumac
  • Wild grape
  • Virginia creeper
  • Crabapple
  • Wild cherry

If there are pileated woodpeckers in your area, they will be attracted to these seemingly wild food sources and you might be lucky enough to spot these birds around your trees and shrubs.

Bear in mind though, that pileated woodpeckers are relatively shy birds, so you might have to wait patiently and quietly before you can spot one.

Provide A Good Source Of Water

Like all birds, pileated woodpeckers need water both to drink and bathe in. If you have the space and the inclination, you could consider installing a small pond in your yard. This will not only attract the woodpeckers but many other wild birds as well.

If your yard is not large enough for a pond, a birdbath is a good alternative. But, because birds are attracted to moving water, you should add a fountain to your birdbath. If you do this, you might be surprised at the various visitors that you attract.

To make it even more attractive over the winter months, consider using a heater to warm up the water when there’s a lot of ice and snow around. The birds will really appreciate a nice warm bath during this time.

Consider Hanging A Nesting Box In One Of Your Trees

In their natural habit, pileated woodpeckers generally carve out nesting cavities in dead trees. However, if there are no dead trees in your general area that are large enough, a mating pair of pileated woodpeckers might just take up residence in the nesting box that you’ve provided for them.

If you follow these tips, you stand a good chance of a pair of woodpeckers taking up residence in your nesting box:

  • Make sure that you hang the nesting box in a protected spot. If you have a stand of trees or even a small forested area, hang the nesting box on a tree that is near the center of this area. This will make the woodpeckers feel quite safe because they’re protected by the surrounding trees.
  • Ensure that the box is high up from the ground. Ideally, you want to hang the box so that it is around 15 to 20 feet off the ground. Obviously, you’re going to need a fairly tall ladder for this unless you’re good at climbing trees.
  • Put sawdust in the box and pack it tight. This allows the woodpeckers the chance to excavate their own cavity and will make them feel more at home.
  • Make sure that you add some guards both to the bottom and top of the nesting box. These are designed to deter possible nest-raiding predators.

Nesting boxes should be put out in early spring to ensure that the local woodpeckers can find them.

Final Thoughts

Pileated woodpeckers are intriguing birds that many people would love to attract into their yards. Remember though, that these birds are quite shy and it may take them a few weeks to find the feeders that you’ve put out for them and to feel secure enough to visit your yard.

In order to have the best chance of attracting them, make sure that you provide plenty of the foods that they love. This includes suet, bark butter, shelled peanuts and small fruits and berries.

Having dead and fallen trees around your yard is also a great way to attract pileated woodpeckers. The birds love to use these trees to forage for their favorite feed of insects just under the bark. They also like to use these trees for building their nesting cavities if they’re large enough.

Another thing you can do is to plant a food forest filled with lots of trees and shrubs that bear native fruits and berries. Add to this a good water source and maybe a nice nesting box or two, and you have a good chance of making your yard attractive enough for a pair of pileated woodpeckers to visit and possibly stay.

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