Woodpeckers are beautiful but unusual birds that are shy to come to your yard at first. The easiest way to attract woodpeckers to your yard is to give them the food they love. In order to make woodpeckers feel comfortable, you have to provide them with an environment that caters to their needs.
1. Create a Perching Space
Providing houses or feeders that include tail props encourages them to come back to your yard. Most woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet, which means they have two front toes and two back toes. This foot formation helps them strongly grip trees and poles in a vertical position.
Woodpeckers use their back toes with their stiff tail feathers to brace on trees as they climb. Tail props give woodpeckers the proper structure they need to hang in that vertical position. Provide plenty of perching space when you make tail props. If you make your own woodpecker feeder, consider using the Birds Choice 2-Cake Hanging Suet Feeder as a template for inspiration.
2. Tempt With The Right Treats
Woodpeckers have a varied diet and they love to eat peanuts, berries, sap, mealworms, and other insects. They will also eat acorns, black oil sunflower seeds, and pine seeds. Some woodpeckers will be attracted to cracked corn, grapes, raisins, apples, or other various fruits on a platform feeder.
Suet does a great job of enticing woodpeckers to come visit your yard. Offer suet cakes in wire cages or other specially designed feeders. The best strategy to use in offering woodpeckers food would be to mix foods together in a blend. For example, offer a grape-flavored suet cake in a wire cage and surround it with peanuts, berries, and sunflower seeds on an attached tray.
3. Use Woodpecker Specific Feeders
The easiest way to attract woodpeckers is to have feeders that have suet cakes associated with their designs. Consider using a hanging hopper feeder, a special suet plug feeder, or a suet ball feeder to entice woodpeckers to fly in and investigate. Upright feeders support the most comfortable feeding postures of woodpeckers, and they should be positioned near mature trees where they will naturally forage.
Woodpeckers feed naturally on a tree using 3 points of contact, which is both their feet and their tail. Having a feeder with a tail-prop is needed depending on the size of the birds. Woodpeckers want their tail securely pressed against something solid when they start pecking.
4. Add a “Private” Bird Bath
Woodpeckers will visit bird baths to drink and bathe, but they prefer to have their privacy as they are shy birds. Isolated, natural bird baths should be considered for woodpeckers instead of gaudy pedestals in areas where many bird species gather. Try a ground bird bath with a dripper or other small moving water sources to attract the birds’ attention.
Position the bath in a shaded, quiet area so the woodpeckers won’t be intimidated by too many other birds visiting the bath constantly. The basin should be relatively shallow, and nearby perches can help the birds become used to the bath and feel more comfortable using it.
5. Keep The Snags (Dead Trees)
Snags are extremely important for providing food, nest sites, and homes for woodpeckers. Many woodpeckers prefer dead or rotting trees for excavating their nest holes. Any dead trees, snags, or stumps left available for foraging woodpeckers provides them a good source of insects and grubs. Pesticide and insecticide use should be minimized to keep the insect population healthy for feeding birds.
Along with finding and feeding on insects that feed on dead trees, woodpeckers also use snags for communication. Even if woodpeckers, primary cavity-nesting birds, eventually leave your yard, keeping snags would be wise since secondary cavity-nesting birds like chickadees and owls use cavities that are excavated.
6. Create a Bird-Friendly Landscape
Landscapes are customized for the right birds, and creating a landscape for woodpeckers is different than for other birds. When planning bird-friendly landscaping, choose trees for birds that will produce the nuts and berries that are important food sources for woodpeckers. Planting an oak tree would help because woodpeckers love acorns.
Pine trees also help because woodpeckers will love the shelter they provide as well as eat the pine seeds and sap. Woodpeckers mainly prefer softer woods for nesting purposes. Next to trees plant bushes that produce fruits and berries like dogwood, tupelo, mountain ash, strawberries, cherries, bayberries, mulberries, blueberries, elderberries, and serviceberries.
7. Add The Right Bird House (Nesting Site)
Woodpeckers love birdhouses because they remind them of the excavated cavities in the trees they nest in. Providing woodpeckers a nesting site is the solution to getting them away from the trees you want to preserve. Your birdhouse should have a 1 1/2” entrance hole for the woodpeckers, two small hinges for a lid, and a cavity depth of 9” to 15” from the box’s floor.
Entrance hole sizes slightly differ between all woodpecker species. Birdhouses should be mounted 10-20 feet high, and keep the birdhouse safe by adding a few wood chips to the interior. This encourages woodpeckers to more carefully investigate.
8. Create a Private Feeding Station
The attitude that woodpeckers have toward humans depends on the particulars of their territory. Woodpeckers are solitary and shy and they prefer not to be bothered when they have active nests. Avoid stressing out woodpeckers and encourage them to visit your yard more often by giving them a separate bird feeding and watering station away from where more boisterous sparrows and finches may be feeding.
Have more than one feeder if larger birds are visiting at one time, and spread out all feeders. Position them close to mature trees where these birds feel most comfortable. This will reduce contact between woodpeckers and small, non-aggressive birds, thus decreasing the chance of disease.
9. Keep Your Bird House Clean
A dirty, damaged birdhouse is unappealing to wild birds. Used nests are often tainted with fleas, mites, and lice waiting for more inhabitants. Birdhouses that go uncleaned can spread parasites and disease. Remove nests after rearing and clean and spray nest boxes and feeders with a mix of 90% water and 10% chlorine bleach.
Replace wood chips in nest boxes before the next nesting season commences. Have a birdhouse with movable or hinged panels that are easier to clean without weakening the structure of the house. Leave the birdhouse up from winter until spring, so they are ready for woodpeckers.
10. Feed Consistently
Woodpeckers won’t just show up in your yard and come to your feeders overnight. Compared to other birds like chickadees and nuthatches, woodpeckers are shy and reticent, and even after you have provided all the necessary accommodations for them, they will take some time before they embrace what you offer. Go in for the long haul.
Get some nest boxes up, provide woodpeckers some water, and offer them a variety of feeding options. Woodpeckers would already have to be in your area and only then can you attract them to your yard and feeders. It is challenging for most people to attract woodpeckers to their feeders, but the challenge is worth it.
11. Discourage Woodpecker Drumming
Woodpeckers have a habit of drumming or drilling on wooden surfaces, and some of those surfaces are inappropriate like the side of your house. It is fun to attract woodpeckers and enjoy their company in the yard, but if their drumming goes unchecked, woodpeckers can cause considerable damage to wooden siding and eaves or fences.
When woodpeckers start pecking away in improper places, repairing the damage and covering the area with wire mesh or netting can discourage their behavior and urge them to find a more proper location. Adding reflective, moving windsocks or spinners close to inappropriate pecking spaces can also keep woodpeckers away without harming the birds.