When you plan on attracting a bird to your yard, do you think solely about the visual beauty they could to your yard, or are you interested in something more? Woodpeckers are the birds that can liven up your yard not just by their colorful plumage but also by their quirky, vibrant personalities.
Here are 4 effective ways of attracting woodpeckers to your yard:
- Attracting them with the food they like: The diet of woodpeckers changes with the changing seasons. Therefore, knowing what they like to eat in each season can give you an advantage.
- The right feeder: You must keep in mind that most woodpeckers are larger in size than your average songbird and, thus, need a larger platform space on their feeder. Also, their feeder should have enough compartments to store their varied diet.
- Private birdbath: Woodpeckers are private birds that enjoy bathing in isolation. Private birdbaths are extremely attractive to them.
- Planting the right trees
Woodpeckers are mostly non-migratory, which means that if you manage to lure them into your yard, you can be surrounded by them all year long. But how would you do that? If you’re clueless about how to attract these magnificent birds, don’t worry; we’ve got you.
In this article, we will take a look at which woodpecker species you can hope to see in your yard. We will also discuss some tips and tricks that can help you in attracting these birdies to your backyard.
Woodpecker species that are most likely to visit your yard
Woodpeckers belong to the family of Picidae, which also consists of wrynecks, piculets, and sapsuckers. There are over 240 species of these birds in the world, out of which 26 species can be found in the United States.
But can you draw all 26 of these woodpeckers to your backyard? No. Some of these species tend to avoid frequenting around human settlements, while the others are primarily forest-dwellers.
Following are nine woodpecker species known to visit backyards and can most likely be attracted to yours. Take a look:
1. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
Lifespan: 1-2 years
Average weight: 21-28 grams
Length: 5.5-7 inches
Wingspan: 10-12 inches
Population status: steadily increasing
Known for being the smallest woodpecker species in North America, the Downy Woodpeckers are basically a miniature version of the large Hairy Woodpeckers.
‘These woodpeckers have black stripes on their head, black plumage with small, white spots on them, with their undersides being white in color. Their bills are shorter than their head.
Downy Woodpeckers are known to inhabit deciduous forests and can be found in almost all parts of the United States, except the northern tundra and the deserts in the south.
2. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Lifespan: 6-7 years
Average weight: 50 grams
Length: 7.5-8.3 inches
Wingspan: 13-15.8 inches
Population status: steadily increasing
The Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are one of the few migratory woodpecker species in the world. These woodpeckers have a medium-sized body with a bright-red crown on their head.
The rest of their body is streaked with black and white, with their undersides colored in pale yellow. The females have a duller coloration than their male counterparts.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers nest in the high deciduous and coniferous forests in their breeding season and move to the semi-open habitats such as forest edges and woodlands during the non-breeding season.
Their breeding ground ranges within the northeastern parts of the United States, while during winters, they migrate towards the east.
3. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Lifespan: 4-7 years
Average weight: about 120 grams
Length: 11-14 inches
Wingspan: 17-21 inches
Population status: on a decline
The Northern Flickers are another migratory woodpecker species, like the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, endemic to the United States.
These medium-sized woodpeckers are known by various names, such as “Harry Wicket,” “Clape,” and “Yellowhammer.” They have an overall brown body with black bars on their wing and back and red underwings.
Found in almost all parts of the United States, the Northern Flickers are quite easy to spot as they often frequent forest edges, woodlands, yards, and parks.
Although they are migratory, they don’t travel too far during the winters. The northern populations move towards the southern parts of their range, while the southern populations are usually non-migratory.
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Lifespan: 12 years
Average weight: 72 grams
Length: 9-10.5 inches
Wingspan: 15-18 inches
Population status: increasing
The Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a somewhat misleading name; although they have a red belly, they are very faint and cannot be recognized from a distance.
On the other hand, their red cap, which is more prominent in the males than the females, is more easily recognizable. The rest of their face and underbody is pale grey in color, with their feathers streaked with black and white.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are non-migratory woodpecker species known to breed throughout the eastern regions of the United States, extending as far north as Florida.
5. Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus)
Lifespan: 4-11 years
Average weight: 40-95 grams
Length: 7-10 inches
Wingspan: 13-17 inches
Population status: steadily increasing
Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpecker species that are found in abundance throughout North America. These woodpeckers have white underparts, a black head and back, and two white stripes running around their faces.
Hairy Woodpeckers are found all over the United States and prefer to nest in mature deciduous trees. Although they’re non-migratory, the population living in extreme northern regions can move south in harsh winters.
6. Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
Lifespan: 6-10 years
Average weight: 65 grams
Length: 8-10 inches
Wingspan: 13-16 inches
Population status: decreasing
Named after the Gila River (pronounced “Heela”) in Arizona, the Gila Woodpeckers are a large woodpecker species found in the southwestern parts of the United States.
These woodpeckers reside in the arroyos and low scrub habitats and can be found in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and southern parts of Nevada.
7. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Lifespan: 13 years
Average weight: 300 grams
Length: 16-19 inches
Wingspan: 26-30 inches
Population status: stable
Pileated Woodpeckers are the second-largest woodpecker species in the United States and might soon become the first due to the likely extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.
These birds have received because of the red cap shining on their heads (“pileated” has been derived from the Latin term “pileatus”, which means “capped). Apart from their cap, these woodpeckers are mostly black in color, except for two white stripes running down their face.
Pileated Woodpeckers frequent the eastern parts of the United States and prefer nesting in mature, hardwood trees.
8. Gilded Flicker (Colaptes chrysoides)
Lifespan: 9 years
Average weight: 120 grams
Length: 11-12 inches
Wingspan: 19-20.5 inches
Population status: decreasing
Gilded Flickers are a large woodpecker species that inhabit the desert regions of the southwestern parts of the United States (Yuma, Colorado, and the Sonoran Desert). These woodpeckers are closely related to the Northern Flickers and have a similar appearance as well.
However, you can distinguish between the two by the color of their underwings; Gilded Flickers have golden underwings, while the latter possesses red underwings.
9. Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Lifespan: 9 years
Average weight: 55-97 grams
Length: 7.5-10 inches
Wingspan: 16 inches
Population status: decreasing
As their name suggests, the Red-headed Woodpeckers are a woodpecker species that belong to the temperate parts of North America and have a vibrant red head and neck.
Both sexes of these woodpeckers have a similarly-colored plumage. They have a white underbody and bold, white bars on their black plumage.
Red-headed Woodpeckers prefer to inhabit open country habitats and are found in abundance between the eastern and central parts of the United States. Being non-migratory, these birds can be found within this range all year round.
Now that you have a basic idea of all these species, you can easily identify them when they visit your yard. Before we move on to talk about attracting them, there’s one thing you should know.
All woodpecker species have slightly varying needs and preferences for trees, foods, and more. However, all the pointers we will talk about below are common to all the yard-frequenting woodpecker species and are likely to lure any of them to your yard.
What do the woodpeckers eat? (Best foods to attract them)
As a birder, you must always remember that the most effective trick of drawing any bird to your yard is to offer them a buffet they cannot resist; the same is true for woodpeckers as well.
In fact, if you’re trying to attract these birds, you have a variety of foods to choose from, thanks to their diverse diet.
Woodpeckers will eat everything you can offer to a backyard bird (insects, seeds, fruits, peanuts, suet). However, the secret to attracting them lies in knowing the best time to offer them a particular food.
Like most birds, their diet changes according to the season and availability of food. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
From spring to summer
In the months of spring and summer, woodpeckers have a primarily insectivorous diet and feed on caterpillars, grubs, beetles, and other insects.
In addition to putting insects in their feeder during these months, you can also avoid sprinkling pesticide or insecticide in your yard. It is because these birds might also pick some insects up from your garden, and you wouldn’t want them to fall sick.
Between late summer and fall
As summer slowly comes to an end, woodpeckers switch to the fruits and berries that have freshly ripened. Therefore, they seek the trees and bushes of blueberries, brambles, holly, strawberries, elderberries, serviceberries, and dogwood during this period.
If you can plant any of these in your yard or garden, it can play a crucial role in luring the woodpeckers in. Putting out fresh fruits and berries into their feeders is another alternative.
Winter months are the toughest time of the year for all birds, which is most of them migrate to warmer regions then. However, the non-migratory woodpecker species adapt their diet according to the food availability in these months.
They feed extensively on various nuts, such as pine nuts, acorns, peanuts, and beechnuts. Therefore, having any of these nut-bearing trees in your yard can be a major advantage to attract them.
Is suet a good idea?
Like all other omnivore birds, woodpeckers are fond of suet and can eat them all year round. Although these birds are not too picky about the type of suet they’re being offered, suet mixed with nuts and berries is their favorite.
The most convenient of offering suet to the woodpeckers is by purchasing a suet feeder (preferably a suet plug feeder) and hanging it in your yard. However, if that seems like too much work, you can also rub suet directly on the bark of trees in your yard.
Pro-tip: Adding suet or suet feeder will attract not only birds but a number of other unwanted visitors to your yard as well, so you must take that into account before buying suet.]
Using the right feeder
As you might have noticed in the previous section, woodpeckers have a quite diverse diet. They can eat seeds, fruits, berries, insects, and suet, their diet ideally changing with changing seasons.
If you want these birdies to choose your yard above the other birders’, you might want to use more than one feeder for them. For feeding them seeds, fruits, and insects, you can go for a hopper feeder. Both hopper feeders and hanging feeders work well for different woodpecker species, so take your pick.
When you’re offering suet to the woodpeckers, the suet plug feeder is your best alternative. The suet plug feeder resembles their natural habitat most closely and is highly appealing to them.
Installing hummingbird feeders for woodpeckers: yes or no?
Most birders think that hummingbird feeders are exclusive to the hummingbirds. However, if you’ve had a hummingbird feeder in your yard for long enough, you might have noticed other birds hanging around it at some point.
Birds like orioles, chickadees, and warblers are most commonly seen trying to drink from these feeders. But did you know that woodpeckers can be drawn to them, too?
Many woodpecker species, particularly the sapsuckers, have a sweet tooth drawn to the hummingbird nectar feeders. However, due to the minuscule port size of these feeders, they often face difficulty in drinking from them.
If you can install a nectar feeder with larger ports in your yard, woodpeckers will have plenty of feeding options in your yard and are more likely to visit it.
It is no surprise that woodpeckers need water for their survival, just like every other living creature. However, an interesting fact about these birds is that these birds are very shy in nature and prefer to bathe and drink water in privacy.
Therefore, instead of picky a large, gaudy birdbath for them, you should go for a simple, natural-looking and place it in an isolated location. And since woodpeckers are mostly non-migratory, getting a heated birdbath for them would be a good idea.
Planting the right trees
Like food and water, a proper habitat is also a basic necessity for the woodpeckers’ survival. If you want to extend their visit to your yard, you can offer them shelter by planting the right trees. But which trees would be best suited for the woodpeckers? We’ll tell you.
In the wild, woodpeckers always go for mature coniferous and deciduous trees for building their nests as well as for feeding. Oak and pine nut trees are their common choices.
If you can plant these trees in your yard, it can attract not only woodpeckers but many other birds, too. The more trees you have in your yard, the more likely the woodpeckers are to visit it.
Birdhouses: a bonus for the woodpeckers
While planting trees is great, it might not be a convenient option for all the birders out there. But what if we told you that there’s another way to offer them shelter in your yard?
Yes, we’re talking about birdhouses. These cavity-nesting birds would love to nest in the wooden birdhouses that you hang for them.
The entrance hole of your woodpecker birdhouse should ideally be 1.5 inches in diameter, with its cavity depth ranging between 9 and 15 inches.
Height is another important factor to make these birds feel secure; mount the feeder at least 15-20 feet above the ground level.
Frequently asked questions
Do woodpeckers eat jelly?
Yes, woodpeckers love eating jelly and are particularly attracted to grape jelly. The high-sugar content of jelly provides a burst of energy to these birds. However, you should avoid feeding these birds store-bought jelly that contains several preservatives and additives harmful to their health.
Can woodpeckers eat wood?
No. No woodpecker species in the world can feed on wood. Contrary to popular belief, they only drill wood to pry out insects from it and feed on them.
Can the holes made by the woodpeckers kill the trees in my yard?
Although the holes made by woodpeckers will not kill your trees directly, these will make them vulnerable to more pests and diseases, leading to their demise over time.
Conclusion: How to attract woodpeckers to your yard?
Woodpeckers are charming birds to have in your yard if you don’t mind a little drilling noise. However, these birds are quite picky about places they visit, so attracting them to your yard might not be quick and easy.
It is a time-taking process and might make you impatient initially, but if you’re consistent in your efforts and have created a woodpecker-friendly landscape in your yard, they will surely come to it.