How to Attract Woodpeckers to Your Yard

Attracting wildlife to our yards can be an enriching and rewarding experience. Among the array of birds you might draw in, woodpeckers are a unique bunch. Their vibrant colors and rhythmic drumming add character and liveliness to any yard. But beyond their beauty and intriguing behavior, woodpeckers play an essential ecological role, controlling pests and contributing to the area’s biodiversity. So, how can you invite these fascinating birds to your yard? This comprehensive guide will provide detailed, practical tips on attracting woodpeckers to your yard, transforming your outdoor space into a haven for these remarkable creatures.

Understanding Woodpeckers

Belonging to the family Picidae, woodpeckers are known for their unique behavior of drumming on tree trunks. But why do they do that? It’s primarily a way to find food, communicate, and build nests. Understanding these behaviors can help you create an inviting environment for them.

There are 22 types of woodpeckers in North America alone, including the famous Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker. Each species has unique habits and preferences, but they all share a common love for wooded areas and their insects.

  • Feeding Habits: Woodpeckers are omnivores with a diet primarily composed of insects, especially wood-boring insects, beetles, and ants. They also eat fruits, nuts, and sap.
  • Communication: Woodpeckers communicate through a method known as “drumming.” They peck rapidly against a hollow tree or metal surface to create a drumming sound used to mark territory and attract mates.
  • Nesting: Woodpeckers carve out cavities in trees for nesting. Once abandoned by the woodpeckers, these cavities serve as homes for other birds and mammals.

Recognizing the habits and preferences of woodpeckers is the first step towards attracting them to your yard. The next step is transforming your yard to resemble their natural habitat, which we will discuss in the following section.

Creating a Woodpecker-Friendly Environment

To draw woodpeckers to your yard, you must create a suitable environment replicating their natural habitat as closely as possible. Here are some effective ways to do that:

Plant Native Trees and Shrubs

Woodpeckers are attracted to yards with abundant trees, especially native ones they’re familiar with. Native trees and shrubs not only provide potential nesting spots, but they also host insects for the woodpeckers to feed on. Some excellent tree choices include oak, pine, and birch. Shrubs like blueberries and elderberries attract insects and provide fruit that woodpeckers eat.

Maintain a Natural Landscape

Keep your yard as natural as possible. Dead trees or snags are especially attractive to woodpeckers as they provide an abundant food source in the form of insects and offer potential nesting spots. If it’s safe, consider leaving a snag in your yard instead of removing it.

Provide a Water Source

Water sources can attract a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers. A birdbath with clean water can be an excellent spot for woodpeckers to drink and bathe. Ensure the water is shallow, and the birdbath is situated somewhere quiet and safe.

Limit the Use of Insecticides

Insecticides kill insects, which are a primary food source for woodpeckers. Limiting the use of pesticides can thus help attract woodpeckers to your yard. Plus, it’s better for the environment!

By mimicking their natural habitat, you can attract not only woodpeckers but also other types of birds and wildlife, boosting your yard’s biodiversity.

Feeding Woodpeckers: What They Like to Eat

Consider providing additional food sources to make your yard more appealing to woodpeckers. While their natural diet primarily consists of insects, woodpeckers are also attracted to certain types of bird feed.



Suet is rendered fat from beef or mutton and is a top favorite of many woodpecker species. It provides the birds with the energy they require for their active lifestyles. Suet can be purchased in cakes from most pet or bird supply stores, and there are special suet feeders available that you can hang from a tree.

Seeds and Nuts

Many woodpeckers enjoy seeds and nuts, especially sunflower seeds, peanuts, and tree nuts like almonds. You can offer these in a bird feeder. Be sure to use a sturdy feeder for woodpeckers, as they are larger and heavier than many other bird species.


Some woodpecker species enjoy fruit. Apples, oranges, and berries can be a great treat for them. Simply slice the fruit and put it out on a platform feeder.

Sugar Water

Though not a traditional food source, sugar water can attract woodpeckers like hummingbirds. You can make your sugar water by mixing one part white sugar with four parts water. Avoid using red food dye as it can be harmful to birds.

Remember to place these feeders near trees or shrubs where the birds can easily retreat safely. It’s also essential to clean feeders regularly to prevent disease spread.

Feeding woodpeckers can be a rewarding experience. Not only does it provide the birds with a reliable food source, but it also offers a great opportunity for up-close observation.

Read also: 15 Birds That Eat Out Of Your Hand

Providing Safe and Suitable Shelter

Beyond food and a natural habitat, woodpeckers require safe and suitable shelters for nesting and roosting. You can provide this by fostering their natural environment or by installing birdhouses.

Retain Mature Trees and Deadwoods

Woodpeckers love to carve their nesting cavities in dead or decaying trees. If you have mature trees or deadwood in your yard, and it’s safe to keep them, let them stand. These provide ideal nesting sites for woodpeckers and harbor insects for them to eat.

Install Birdhouses

If you don’t have suitable trees, consider installing birdhouses. Birdhouses or nesting boxes should be sturdy and have a hole size suitable for the woodpecker species you’re trying to attract. The Downy Woodpecker, for instance, requires a hole about 1.25 inches in diameter, while the larger Pileated Woodpecker needs a hole about 3 inches in diameter.

Place Shelter Strategically

Whether it’s a natural tree cavity or a man-made birdhouse, the shelter’s location plays a crucial role. Place the birdhouse high enough to keep it out of reach from predators. Also, if possible, place it on the east or north side of the tree, where it will be protected from direct sunlight and prevailing winds.

Maintain Quiet and Privacy

Ensure the nesting area is quiet and undisturbed. Woodpeckers, like most birds, appreciate privacy when nesting.

By providing safe and suitable shelter, you’ll encourage woodpeckers to visit and make a home in your yard, ensuring you enjoy their presence for years to come.

Read also: How to Attract Orioles to Your Yard

Tips to Protect Woodpeckers from Predators

Even as we strive to attract woodpeckers to our yards, we must understand that they face threats from various predators. Here are some tips to help protect these birds:

Attract woodpeckers to Your Yard

Place Bird Feeders and Houses High

Most predators find it difficult to reach heights. Place bird feeders and houses high off the ground, ideally more than ten feet. This will keep them out of reach of many predators, including domestic cats and raccoons.

Use Predator Guards

Consider installing predator guards or baffles on the poles of bird feeders and houses. These devices prevent predators from climbing up the pole and reaching the birds.

Keep Pets Indoors

If you have pets, particularly cats, consider keeping them indoors or supervising them while they’re outside. Cats are excellent climbers and can significantly threaten birds, including woodpeckers.

Discourage Larger Birds

Large birds like hawks and owls can pose a threat to woodpeckers. If you notice a predatory bird frequenting your yard, you might need to temporarily remove the feeders until the predator moves on.

Remember, your goal is to create a safe and welcoming environment for the woodpeckers. Protecting them from predators will make your yard a more attractive and safer place for these fascinating birds to visit and live.

Final Thoughts

Creating a woodpecker-friendly yard is a fulfilling endeavor that combines the joy of birdwatching with ecological responsibility. Providing the right food, water, shelter, and safe environment makes your yard irresistible to woodpeckers. Remember, the key is to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible and to make them feel safe. Start implementing these tips today, and soon, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing these beautiful birds drumming away in your backyard. It’s a rewarding experience that brings nature right to your doorstep.

Read also: Why Do Woodpeckers Peck on Metal?


1. What types of food can I put out to attract woodpeckers?

  • Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, but they’re also attracted to suet, seeds, nuts, and fruit. You can put out suet cakes, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and fruits like apples, oranges, or berries. Offering a varied menu increases your chances of attracting woodpeckers to your yard.

2. Are woodpeckers harmful to trees in my yard?

  • While it’s true that woodpeckers peck holes in trees, they generally target dead or diseased trees and rarely harm healthy ones. Their drumming can be beneficial as they eat harmful insects living under the bark.

3. What kind of birdhouse do I need for woodpeckers?

  • The birdhouse or nesting box you need depends on the species of woodpecker you’re trying to attract. Each species has specific preferences for the size of the birdhouse and the diameter of the entrance hole. For example, Downy Woodpeckers need a birdhouse with an entrance hole about 1.25 inches in diameter, while the Pileated Woodpecker prefers a larger hole of about 3 inches.

4. How can I keep predators away from the woodpeckers?

  • There are several ways to keep predators away from woodpeckers. Place bird feeders and houses high off the ground, use predator guards on poles, and keep pets indoors or supervise them while they’re outside. If larger predatory birds become a problem, you may need to temporarily remove feeders until they move on.

5. Are there any legal issues I should be aware of when attracting woodpeckers?

  • In the United States, all species of woodpeckers are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, making it illegal to kill, trap, or possess them without a permit. This includes disturbing their nests. Always respect wildlife and observe from a distance.

Martin Cooper

Hello and welcome! I’m an avid bird enthusiast, dedicated to observing, understanding, and documenting our feathery friends. I hope my passion and knowledge inspires your own avian admiration! Join me as we soar into this fascinating world.

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