If you’ve been outside and heard the sound of knocking coming from the top of a tree, chances are a woodpecker is nearby. These adorable woodland birds live up to their name, using their bills to peck at nearby trees. Many people wonder what do woodpeckers eat. Therefore, I decided to write this article to discuss in detail about the eating behavior and diet of woodpeckers.
So, what do woodpeckers eat? Woodpeckers generally eat wood-boring insects but also love to eat tree sap, acorns, fruits, berries, pine seeds, sunflower seeds, cracked corns, grapes, raisins, etc. Their diet is very diverse, even changing with the seasons to ensure they meet their nutritional needs no matter what is growing.
While specific preferences vary from species to species, woodpeckers tend to have similar diets. Understanding their feeding habits can help bird enthusiasts better equip their bird feeders, and can help them find woodpeckers out in the field.
A disclaimer: Woodpeckers do not eat wood!
Before you continue, we’d like to clear up a misconception. In contrast to popular belief, woodpeckers do not drum on wood for food, nor do they eat wood.
Drumming, the act of pecking at trees is actually the woodpecker’s way of communicating. Using different kinds of drumming woodpeckers can attract mates or claim their territory.
For feeding purposes, woodpeckers use their beaks to pry insects out of the wood, just like a human being would use a fork. They can also use their beaks to access sap, a favorite food option for woodpeckers.
Spring and Summer Diet of Woodpeckers
Woodpeckers vary their diet depending on what is most accessible. The sap is plentiful in the spring when the trees awaken from their winter rest, and their sap rises up through their trunks. Rich and sweet, woodpeckers eat their fill in the early spring, when no other food is available.
Late Spring and Summer are a time of plenty for woodpeckers, with insects having hatched. These protein-rich insects are a perfect source of food for breeding birds and growing hatchlings.
Fall and Winter Diet of Woodpeckers
As the weather grows colder and bugs begin dying off, woodpeckers turn their attention to nature’s harvest. Nuts, seeds, and fruit begin to take over as we head into winter.
Winter is a difficult time for all birds, but woodpeckers make do with seeds and nuts, as well as any lingering fruits that have held on despite the frost. Some woodpeckers ever store food, caching food for times of scarcity.
Like squirrels, they will collect food during the warmer months and save them away by hiding them under loose bark, tree hollows, or even underground.
A Gory Feast
Although it is quite disturbing, certain species of woodpeckers do indeed eat the eggs and hatchlings of other birds. They frequently attack nests and steal the contents of it, sometimes eating it then and there, or taking them back to its own nest.
If you want to protect nesting birds from woodpecker attacks, consider covering your nesting boxes with wire mesh, and ensuring they are out of reach of squirrels, as the mesh can offer them a climbing perch.
Attracting Woodpeckers With Food
Woodpeckers are human-friendly birds that can help you keep your garden free from pests and insects by eating them. They can feed on grasshoppers, wood-boring insects, flies, spiders and grubs.
Having woodpeckers in your garden is such a boon for your flowers and other crops. Well, it takes a proper technique to give an invitation to these birds to come to your garden.
Here is what you need to know for attracting these wonderful birds to your backyard.
Woodpeckers stay in the same region year-round, and will often visit backyard feeders for food. If you are interested in attracting woodpeckers to your backyard, there are a couple of things to consider.
First of all, woodpeckers do not use the same bird feeders as smaller seed-eating birds. Properly secured suet feeders, hopper feeders, and tray feeders are all great options for woodpeckers. You should be ready with woodpecker feeders filled with tasty food.
Sometimes, woodpeckers have even been spotted drinking out of hummingbird feeders! Remember that no matter what you choose, they should have sturdy perches to support the weight of woodpeckers.
Woodpecker feeders can be filled with many different fillings, but the most popular include
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Suet (only in the colder months)
- Black oil sunflower seeds (popular with many birds)
- Fruit jams and jellies (grape is a big hit)
- Fruit (try oranges and apples)
No matter what you fill your feeders with, your local woodpeckers will surely appreciate the offering.
Natural Backyard Feeders
Another great option is to provide a yard full of natural food sources.
To do this, plant fruit and nut-bearing plants, such as oak trees and crabapple trees, or seed-bearing flowers, like sunflowers. Forgoing chemical insecticides is also a thoughtful way to provide the woodpeckers in your area with plenty of food.
You can even grow a berry or a fruit plant such as grapes, brambles, holly, blueberries, apples, mulberry, bayberry that woodpeckers love to feed on. After this, you’ll see woodpeckers would love to pay a visit to your garden every once in a while.
Conclusion: What Do Woodpeckers Eat?
Woodpeckers are beautiful birds and are fascinating to watch. With a varied and adaptable diet, they keep themselves well-fed no matter what the season. Bird lovers who supply their yards with a good range of natural foods and well-stocked feeders will have no trouble attracting these feathered friends.
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