The 4 Best Foods for Woodpeckers

Attract more woodpeckers to your backyard with a winning menu.

Photo by Critter LeePhoto by Critter Lee
Downy woodpecker at a suet feeder 

Snow, sleet and bitterly cold temperatures are no match for woodpeckers. Their can’t-miss black and white markings, with an occasional sprinkling of red, stand out as they acrobatically forage around bare tree trunks and brave the winter months. Attract more of these sought-after birds this season with this simple yet satisfying menu.

1. Suet

Woodpeckers aren’t picky. Suet straight from the butcher will do; there’s no need to render it. Place the suet in a large cage feeder. Store-bought cakes get the job done, too. A basic suet cage feeder is inexpensive, and premade cakes slide right in for a perfect fit. Learn how to make your own suet!

2. Peanuts

Shelled or unshelled, this delicious snack is one that woodpeckers gobble up. You can find feeders made specifically for peanuts. Companies that sell nuts have jumped on the birding bandwagon and sell peanut feed that doesn’t make the cut for human consumption. Remember: Unsalted peanuts are best. Attract more backyard birds by feeding peanuts.

3. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Downy and hairy woodpeckers are particularly fond of this all-around favorite. Because woodpeckers are a bit bigger than the average songbird, you should serve sunflower seeds in a hopper or platform feeder to give them easy access. Learn the three types of seeds and feeders birds love best.

4. Peanut Butter

Here’s an easy, no-fuss way to feed winter woodpeckers: Simply smear peanut butter directly on the tree trunks. Or buy a log feeder and fill the predrilled holes with the gooey, high-fat snack.

Backyard Tip

Field Editor Boni Trombetta feeds woodpeckers all year. “Adults bring the babies to the feeders so they know where to find an easy meal,” she says.

6 Woodpeckers to Watch For

    • Downy
    • Hairy
    • Red-Bellied
    • Red-Headed
    • Pileated
    • Northern Flicker

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.