The Ultimate Guide to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Bird Feeders

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!

Here are a few quick and easy tips to start drawing in these delightful birds 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. As a bonus: 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 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 a ton of different varieties of suet you can put out. In my experience, peanut-flavored suet, high-energy suet varieties and cakes with insects mixed in have yielded the best results with drawing in woodpeckers and other birds.

St. Albans Bay Suet Plus High Energy Suet Cakes, 20 Pack of 11 oz. Suet Cakes for Wild Birds

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

Pacific Bird & Supply Co Insect + Hot Pepper Suet Cakes (Case of 12). My birds LOVE this stuff!

Related: Ranking the Effectiveness of Squirrel Bird Feeder Deterrents

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

C&S Peanut Nuggets, 27 oz

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 warmer weather months.

Related: The Ultimate Bird Seed and Bird Food Guide

2. Attract Woodpeckers with the Right Bird Feeders

Several different suet feeder options are perfect for Woodpeckers. My personal favorite right now 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 style feeder on Amazon.

Wildlife Sciences Suet Plug Feeder, Bevel Cut Pine Post

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

Birds Choice SNPS Recycled Double Cake Pileated Suet Feeder

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

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

Suet can unfortunately draw in pesky birds like European Starlings, who will gobble it down within an hour. A fix to this issue is to buy an upside down suet feeder.

Nature’s Way Bird Products CWF2 Cedar Suet Upside-Down Bird Feeder

Related: The Best Bird Seed for Cardinals

3. Avoid Using Pesticides in Your Yard

As I mentioned earlier, Woodpeckers eat a lot of 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 various other sources have linked pesticide use to harming birds and wildlife in your yard. It’s best to cut down or eliminate your use of pesticides in your yard whenever you can!

4. Have 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!

While usually not ideal for a homeowner, having dead trees in your yard will encourage Woodpeckers to forage for insects and potentially even nest in your yard. Red Bellied, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers love inspecting dead trees.

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.

More Millennials and Gen-Zs Should Try Bird Feeding

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’s 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 for a snack. 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 (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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