Woodpeckers are resident in the US all year round, so if you can attract them to your garden, you may be able to see them and their families for many years to come.
Like all birds if you create a welcoming environment which offers the right food, water and shelter, they will soon find their way in to your garden. Don’t expect them to come rushing to your yard though. Woodpeckers can be quite shy and they will take their time to check out your garden before visiting or making it home.
Before you set up your garden for woodpeckers, take a look around it. Woodpeckers prefer a quiet, shaded area which is away from other birds. Their timid nature means that too much activity can put them off. They prefer sit and get used to an area before visiting it to feed or bathe.
How to attract woodpeckers to your yard
It’s fair to say that woodpeckers like trees, but you must plant the right trees and provide them with the right shelter. Make sure you set them up with an area of their own, away from other bird activity.
Create a snag
Snags are where woodpeckers like to build their nests. They like older or dead trees, so if you need to cut a tree down, leave some of the lower trunk. The woodpeckers will use these to create a home and will hopefully stay away from drilling holes in other areas of your garden, such as your fence posts or eaves. You can try hanging your own nesting boxes as well, but make sure they are the right size and in a good area to attract the birds. They should be sited between 10 and 20 feet high and adding wood chippings, or bark can help attract the woodpeckers to use it.
Planting trees is a long-term way to attract woodpeckers. If you have mature trees, create your woodpecker area around these. They may visit the trees you currently have in your garden, but they do prefer some trees to others, such as deciduous trees like oak, or pine trees. Most trees not only provide them with shelter, but with food too, such as acorns and pine seeds. If your garden is large enough, try to create an area with a few trees which are close together. Woodpeckers will feel safer in the shelter of a few trees.
Like all garden visitors, woodpeckers will come looking for food. They eat insects, berries and nuts but they also have some favorite foods you can put out for them.
When putting food out for them, you can use a woodpecker feeder as long as it has plenty of perching space or a platform feeder.
If you are creating an area just for woodpeckers, set your feeders up in this area too. If a feeder is used by lots of other birds, woodpeckers may avoid it. The best place to set up feeders and water is close to the trees where they are likely to set up home.
Woodpeckers love suet and they’re not particularly choosy about what sort they have either. There are easy ways you can put suet around your garden so they can enjoy it. If you buy suet which is mixed with nuts and berries, this can act as a bigger attraction.
- Suet can be rubbed along the bark of a tree
- You can buy suet feeders which you will with suet blocks and these can be placed around the garden.
Be careful about leaving suet blocks around which are not in cages as these can attract unwelcome garden visitors. You should also check to make sure that the suet hasn’t been out so long that it’s gone off. Woodpeckers don’t like old suet, so when placing it around the garden, use smaller blocks rather than larger ones.
Black oil sunflower seeds
Black oil sunflower seeds are another favorite food which is also popular with other birds.
The best way to provide these seeds is in a hopper or on a platform feeder. They also come mixed in to seed cakes.
Woodpeckers don’t care if the peanuts are shelled or not, they will still eat them, but always use unsalted peanuts.
You can get feeders which are designed for peanuts or you can simply put them on a platform feeder. They also love peanut butter, and this can be smeared on to trees just like suet, or it can be pushed in to any holes in the trees. The woodpeckers will enjoy picking it out.
All birds like insects and woodpeckers are no exception. They will rummage for insects in the bark of trees, as well as forage in the rest of your garden. If you have a well planted garden they will be able to find a good choice of insects to feed on. This is a great way to help control pests in the garden too.
If you have fruit bushes, woodpeckers may investigate them to eat the fruit. If you don’t you can plant them close to your trees so that the birds can see them. They like most fruits so strawberries, blueberries, brambles, cherries and even holly are good varieties to plant.
Woodpeckers also enjoy the nectar found in hummingbird feeders. If you add a port wide enough for a woodpecker you can enjoy watching them feed with the hummingbirds.
Woodpeckers need water to drink and to bathe, so a bird bath in the garden will help attract them. While they will use bird baths with other birds, they are more likely to use a bath in a more secluded area of the garden.
If you have a quiet area of your garden, put a bath or bowl on the ground and fill it with water. It will need to be close to perches and in the winter make sure your bird baths are heated.
Once you have your woodpecker area set up, make sure you check it regularly to keep the woodpeckers using it. All food and water should be topped up or removed when it’s old, and maintaining the fruit bushes will help keep them producing healthy fruit too.
If you can attract and keep the woodpeckers in your yard, this will encourage them to nest so you can enjoy watching the baby birds as they grow.