How to Attract Woodpeckers to a Feeder

You can bring a lot of unique personality to your yard when you attract Woodpeckers to your bird feeder. It’s fun to watch them as they scale up and down trees and feeders looking for food. Plus, many woodpeckers are also avid insect eaters, providing natural pest control for your yard!

Woodpeckers are a lot of fun to attract and they tend to be loyal visitors. Once you bring one to your feeder, chances are good that they’ll keep coming back. Most tend to stay in a certain area year-round once they settle into a space. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers have become my most regular guests at my bird feeding station. They’ve visited every single day without fail for a year and counting!

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Here are a few quick and easy tips to start drawing in Woodpeckers to your yard and feeders.

1. Attract Woodpeckers with their Favorite Foods

You can easily attract Woodpeckers by hanging suet in a bird feeder. In this picture a Downy Woodpecker is eating suet out of a cage bird feeder.
I have a Downy Woodpecker couple who visit my bird feeding station every single day for suet!

Suet (rendered fat) is the name of the game for attracting Woodpeckers. Nearly every species that you can attract to a bird feeder will love snacking on it. Also, suet is cheap! It costs $1 to $5 for a cake of it, which usually lasts me for a couple of weeks. It also draws in other fun birds like:

  • Chickadees
  • Jays
  • Nuthatches
  • Tanagers (sometimes)
  • Warblers (some species like the Yellow-Rumped Warbler)
  • Wrens (sometimes)

Related: 5 Time-Tested Ways to Attract Cardinals to Your Bird Feeder

There are many varieties of suet you can buy. In my experience, peanut-flavored suet, high-energy suet, and cakes with insects mixed in have yielded the best results.

Spicy Suet and Other Food Picks for Woodpeckers

Having trouble with squirrels? You can buy spicy suet for your feeders! Squirrels don’t like spice, but birds can’t taste it. It’s an easy solution! Spicy suet is more expensive, but my birds go nuts for this spicy insect hot pepper suet. The squirrels don’t touch it! So, you’ll end up saving money by keeping rodents away.

Related Content: Ranking the Effectiveness of Squirrel Bird Feeder Deterrents

You can also buy suet pellets for hopper and tray bird feeders. It’s fun to see a woodpecker snatch one of these up. Blue Jays also like them on my platform feeder.

Outside of suet, Woodpeckers also enjoy mealworms, peanut bits and sunflower seed. Some species may even snack on fruit, grape jelly and nectar feeders in the spring and summer.

2. Attract Woodpeckers with the Right Bird Feeder

Several different suet feeder options are perfect for Woodpeckers. My personal favorite is a tree log feeder from my local Wild Bird Store. It’s made from a birch log with three holes drilled into it for suet plugs. My Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Nuthatches love it! You can also buy a similar feeder on Amazon.

Wildlife Sciences Suet Plug Feeder, Bevel Cut Pine Post

A picture of a suet log bird feeder for sale on Amazon.

For larger woodpeckers, especially Pileated Woodpeckers, you’ll want to buy a feeder with a long base below the cage to support their tail when they land. These feeders hold a lot of suet and are sure to bring in Woodpeckers of all sizes.

Looking for a cost-effective option? Buy a dirt cheap cage feeder and slap a suet cake into it. Done!

More Birds Suet Cage Bird Feeder, Fruit and Suet Feeder, Single Cake Capacity
More Birds Suet Cage Bird Feeder, Fruit and Suet Feeder, Single Cake Capacity

Unfortunately, suet can draw in pesky birds like European Starlings, who gobble it down quickly. A fix for this problem is to buy an upside down suet feeder. Woodpeckers are acrobatic and can cling to it with ease. Starlings and black birds will have trouble.

Related Content: The Best Bird Seed for Cardinals

3. Attract Woodpeckers by Avoiding the Use of Pesticides in Your Yard

Woodpeckers love to eat insects. If you use pesticides on your yard, you’ll end up killing a natural food source that can draw them and other birds to your yard.

The Cornell Bird Lab and other sources link pesticide use to harming birds and wildlife. It’s best to cut down or eliminate your use of pesticides in your yard whenever you can.

According to the American Bird Conservatory, some alternatives to pesticides for weeds in your yard are: Hand-pulling the weeds, using a diluted mix of white vinegar, salt and dish soap, or by using a more natural weed killer.

4. Attract Woodpeckers by Having Dead Trees Nearby

You can also attract woodpeckers by leaving dead trees in your yard.
Woodpeckers love foraging for insects on dead trees and will even consider nesting in larger dead trees you may have in your yard!

Leaving dead trees in your yard will encourage Woodpeckers to forage for insects and potentially even nest in them. Red Bellied, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers love inspecting dead trees.

If you don’t like the idea of leaving dead trees in your yard, you can consider leaving a few dead logs or build up a brush pile in a designated space in your yard with branches and wood scraps.

5. Provide a Woodpecker-Specific Source of Water in Your Yard

Compared to songbirds, woodpeckers may be a little shy to visit a busy bird bath. If you have the means to do so, you can consider providing woodpeckers with a more secluded bird bath option. It’s helpful to place the bird bath in a low-traffic space in your yard, ideally next to trees and shelter nearby.

6. A Photo Guide to Common Woodpeckers at your Feeder

Downy Woodpecker

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The Downy Woodpecker is common across most of the United States

Downy’s have a shorter bill compared to the similar-looking Hairy Woodpecker. They’re prevalent in any wooded area and suburban neighborhoods. I draw in several Downy’s to my feeders, even though I live in a suburban apartment complex. Listen for their loud “peek!” calls.

Hairy Woodpecker

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The oldest recorded Hairy Woodpecker lived more than 15 years!

Hairy Woodpeckers are almost identical to Downy Woodpeckers in terms of their colors and feather patterns. But they’re larger (about the same size as a Robin) and have bigger bills as a differentiator. They’re also common backyard visitors like the Downy and love suet.

Northern Flicker

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The Northern Flicker eats more ants compared to any other North American bird.

Northern Flickers are rarer at bird feeders as they prefer eating insects like ants from the ground. They will sometimes visit suet feeders. Northern Flickers are fairly common across the United States and up in Canada during the breeding season.

Pileated Woodpecker

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The Pileated Woodpecker is an unmistakable bird.

A huge woodpecker at 16-19 inches. So, basically crow-sized. Pileated Woodpeckers are a delight to see if you live in or near a forested area. I was in awe when I saw one of these while staying at a cabin in Grand Marais, Minnesota. They’re a sight to behold!

Red Bellied Woodpecker

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The poorly named Red Bellied woodpecker is named for a slight red patch on its stomach.

Another common feeder visitor, Red Bellied Woodpeckers are found throughout forested areas and the suburbs. Like every other bird on this list, they love suet but will also enjoy eating peanuts and sunflower seeds. I’ve heard they also enjoy snacking on hummingbird nectar and oranges if you put those out in the summer.

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