What Do Woodpeckers Eat? [7 Foods To Attract Them]

what do woodpeckers eat

Having woodpeckers in the garden is an enjoyable experience. While it can be annoying watching them drill holes in anything wooden, they are also fascinating birds to watch.

Like all birds they have their favorite foods and if you want to encourage them to stay in your garden, these are the foods you should put out. You can buy woodpecker feeders and they prefer ones with a perch or platform feeders.

7 Foods That Attract Woodpeckers


If a woodpecker could tell you its favorite food, it would probably be suet, and lots of it. Not only do they like the taste, but it is a high energy food which is easily digested. In winter when other foods are scarce, suet is a good food to give to woodpeckers.

Any suet is suitable but you can purchase suet blocks which also contain other foods, such as nuts and fruit. Woodpecker feeders are a good way to provide suet cakes. They hold the suet inside a cage and the birds can easily peck inside to get to it. You can also smear suet on to the trees, but check it regularly as old suet can go off and the smell will put woodpeckers off from feeding.


One of the main reasons that woodpeckers peck on wood, is because it is home to insects. They love insects, larvae and insect eggs and can drill in to the wood with great precision to find them.

Woodpeckers will eat most insects, including grasshoppers and spiders and have been known to forage around the garden to find them.

They also like mealworms, which can be rehydrated and left on feeders for them as a treat.


Peanuts are another popular choice and they provide fats and protein for the woodpeckers. They will eat peanuts shelled or unshelled, but steer clear of salted or flavored nuts as these can be harmful.

If they are placed in feeders there is less chance of them being dropped all over the yard to attract unwanted visitors. If you have pine trees or oak trees, woodpeckers will also eat the pine nuts and acorns.

Woodpeckers also like peanut butter, and this can be smeared on to bark just like suet.


Like all birds, woodpeckers like seeds, particularly sunflower seeds. These can be placed in a feeder or on a platform feeder and other birds may well join in with eating them.

Seed cakes are a good way to feed them sunflower seeds too. These cakes usually contain a mix of foods, including nuts and fruits, and the cakes can be dropped inside feeders.


If you have fruit bushes in your garden, you’ll likely see woodpeckers feeding from it. All birds have a sweet tooth and the sugar in the fruit provides them with energy.

Planting your own fruit trees and bushes means they can forage for the fruits, but if you have a platform feeder you can also put the fruit out for them.

They like most fruits, including apples, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cherries and even holly berries.

If you leave fruit out for them, check it during warmer weather as the sugar will turn to mold very quickly.


Many bird lovers put nectar out for birds, and woodpeckers will drink this too if they can. Hummingbird feeders have small feeding ports, so a woodpecker will not be able to get to the nectar inside.

You can add a larger feeding port for them, or set them up with their own sugar water feeder away from other birds.


Some species of woodpecker will eat the sap in the trees, particularly at times of the year when other foods are scarce.

If you want to put food out for woodpeckers, try to vary it and use a mix of foods, and check it regularly to keep it fresh. Not all species of woodpecker will enjoy the same foods and they all need a mix of fat, proteins and sugar to keep them healthy, so the more choice of foods they have, the better.

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