Baby woodpecker food

What Do Woodpeckers Eat? 20 Types of Food They Forage and Hunt

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Woodpeckers are known for the immense amount of noise they make while living up to their names, pecking wood from trees in search of a meal, or drumming to attract a mate. These noisy birds live all over the world, except in Australia and New Guinea. That means they have a wide range in which to live and many opportunities to interact with other animals, which begs the question, what do woodpeckers eat?

Like many other birds, woodpeckers are swift and have great senses to help them find food. However, it’s their unique skulls and tongues that will provide the best insight into how they hunt and eat. Learn how they find food and how they fare in dire situations.  

What Foods Do Woodpeckers Eat?

Woodpeckers eat insects, tree sap, seeds, and nuts.

Woodpeckers eat insects, nuts, and fruit. They are omnivorous birds that like to feast on bugs that infest trees, using their special physiology to root them out. These birds do not have any problems pecking through tough shells to reach the seeds inside. They are not very picky, either, eating a host of different bugs and seeds.

Some of the foods that woodpeckers eat are:

  • Acorns
  • Emerald ash borers
  • Termites
  • Ants
  • Tree sap
  • Wasps
  • Pecans
  • Corn
  • Dog food
  • Mice
  • Small lizards
  • Birds
  • Bird eggs
  • Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Suet
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds

The woodpecker’s diet is varied, but the vast majority of their preferred foods are wood-boring insects, especially their larvae. Long-horned beetles and other bugs like them that live in trees and other wood make up 75% of some woodpecker species’ diet.

Although they will eat fruits and nuts, they’ll also dine on the occasional bird egg, fledgling bird, or even a lizard. Perhaps the rarest meal in which a woodpecker will partake is meat from small rodents, like mice.

They’ll also consume carrion, meat that was killed by another source, but this is not their preferred food. They would rather eat insects and fruit. The woodpecker is an amazing forager, capable of finding a meal in just about any environment. Their special beaks and skulls make them perfectly suited for finding food.

How Do Woodpeckers Hunt Their Food?

Woodpeckers hunt their food by using their beaks to break wood and find the insects below.


Woodpeckers have amazing physiology, especially when it comes to their beaks and skulls. Their bill is long, and their beak is very strong. In fact, it is best described as chisel-like. The tip of their beak is powerful enough to dig through wood, break through shells, and dig into prey.

Their skulls are also interesting because they are made from spongy bone that cushions the impact from striking their beak against trees. Along with powerful neck muscles, the woodpecker’s hyoid bones provide tremendous shock absorption so the bird can hammer into trees thousands of times per day.

When hunting for bugs, they will use their sense of smell to locate high concentrations of formic acid produced by their prey of choice. Next, they tap on portions of trees and listen for movement beneath the bark or within the wood. If they detect movement, they will bore into the wood with their powerful beaks and then insert their highly elastic, sticky tongues into the hole they’ve made.

They are very successful at finding and eating wood-boring insects in this way. They can also catch some insects mid-flight.

Hungry woodpeckers will sometimes locate a nest with bird eggs or hatchlings and raid it, killing and eating parts of the young. Woodpeckers are vicious and effective when attacking prey like mice, lizards, and fledglings.

What Do Baby Woodpeckers Eat?

Baby woodpeckers eat regurgitated insects from their parents.

Baby woodpeckers hatch after their eggs are incubated for up to two weeks. For the following 25-30 days, they are cared for by the parents. During the first two weeks of that time, one of the birds will sit and brood the hatchlings while the other goes to get food and then regurgitates it for its young. Insects are the most common food that woodpeckers will regurgitate for their babies.

Once the birds have started to grow feathers, both parents will hunt food and regurgitate it for the young or bring whole insects to them. Woodpecker babies depart the nest after about 30 days, and then they are ready to leave their parents shortly after.

What Do Woodpeckers Eat During Winter?

Woodpeckers rely on nuts, seeds, and residual fruit to get them through winter.

The cold winter months impose hardships on many animals, including the woodpecker. Some species of woodpecker will migrate to warmer climates, but others stay near their breeding areas. One reason woodpeckers stick around longer than other species is that they make hollows in trees for their nests.  The extra protection from the elements helps.

When the winter comes and insects are less available to them, woodpeckers eat the following foods:

  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

Woodpeckers can easily crack open seeds that other birds had to leave behind, and these birds have been known to create a stash of food to help them in times of scarcity. Notably, the acorn woodpecker is known for hoarding acorns to help survive the cold winter months.

What Predators Eat Woodpeckers?

Bobcats can make short work of woodpeckers. Elder Design

The woodpecker is a bit of a predator in its own right, but that does not mean they are apex predators. Some creatures can track them down and put an end to their incessant drumming while getting a meal in the meantime. Woodpecker predators include:

  • Foxes
  • Snakes
  • Domestic cats
  • Hawks
  • Coyotes
  • Eastern screech owls
  • Grackles
  • Bobcats

One notable absence on the list of woodpecker predators is human beings. Although many people would love to get rid of these birds, they are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Humans need a special permit to get rid of them. However, putting out a few decoy hawks and owls often reduces their numbers in a small area.

Woodpeckers are great at digging insects out of trees, finding bountiful deposits of sap, and scooping up the occasional bird egg for dinner. These birds are not hard to find due to their constant drumming and squawks, so it’s possible to watch them in action as they dig into trees. Their unique skulls and beaks set them apart from other birds their size, making the woodpecker an interesting albeit loud creature.  

What Do Baby Woodpeckers Eat?

While it’s illegal to keep woodpeckers as pets, this doesn’t mean you can’t help if you find one that’s still a baby, injured, or sick. If you’ve come across a baby woodpecker and you’re trying to care for it until a wildlife rehab center takes it in, or if you’re just curious about those little birds, this article is for you. So what do baby woodpeckers eat?

Baby woodpeckers aren’t all that different from other baby birds as they require a protein-rich diet. As such, baby woodpeckers can eat small insects, nuts, seeds, fruit, and tree sap brought in by the parents. At home, you can feed them mealworms, canned dog food, moistened dog biscuits, raw liver, and hard-boiled eggs.

Keep reading to find out more about the diet of a baby woodpecker and how can you best care for one.

What do Parent Woodpeckers Feed their Offspring?

What Diet is Most Appropriate for a Baby Woodpecker?

What Foods Can You Give a Baby Woodpecker?

Recipe #1

Recipe #2

What Foods Should You Not Give a Baby Woodpecker?

How often do Baby Woodpeckers Eat?

How to Feed a Baby Woodpecker

Tips for Feeding a Baby Woodpecker

Wrap Up

What do Parent Woodpeckers Feed their Offspring?

Woodpeckers alter their diets and that of their babies according to the most available food sources at the time.

In the spring, tree sap is a popular item on the menu when only a few other foods can be found. The sweet and rich sap would be rising in generous amounts in trees reawakening after winter.

In the spring and summer, adult and baby woodpeckers will mostly eat insects (wood-boring insects, grubs, spiders, and ants) as they provide high protein content for breeding birds and growing younglings.

In the fall, nuts, seeds, and fruit become a primary part of woodpeckers’ diet because of the abundance of natural harvests. In the winter, seeds and nuts are also the most common foods, along with some leftover fruit on bushes and trees.

What Diet is Most Appropriate for a Baby Woodpecker?

According to bird veterinarian Andrea Roberts, if you find yourself having to feed a baby woodpecker, then you should try and mimic its natural diet as closely as possible.

Author Note: Like most baby birds, baby woodpeckers get all the nutrients and fluids that they need for healthy growth from eating protein-rich insects and grubs. As such, your easiest and best option would be going down to your local pet store and buying something called ‘mealworms’.

This type of pet food is usually meant for geckos and other reptile pets to feast on, but it’s quite beneficial for birds as well. Mealworms are loaded with nutritional value and they also offer a high water content.

As a result, you probably won’t need to use the dropper to feed water, which is a plus because it’s very likely for inexperienced individuals to accidentally allow fluid to enter the bird’s lungs. Generally speaking, baby woodpeckers get all their fluid requirements from eating insects and grubs.

What Foods Can You Give a Baby Woodpecker?

When it comes to the exact type of food a baby woodpecker – or any baby bird for that matter- should be fed, the opinions widely vary. However, most experts do agree that the specific food you give a baby woodpecker isn’t very important as long as it’s getting the required nutrients for healthy growth.

While it’s true that different breeds of adult birds follow varying diets (some mostly eat insects, others primarily feed on seeds and berries), the majority of baby birds share rather similar needs and should be given food high in protein levels.

Baby woodpeckers are no exception. You can give them moist dog food, raw liver (no seasoning), hard-boiled eggs, moistened dog biscuits and moistened dog or cat kibble.

Here are a couple of excellent basic recipes to feed a baby woodpecker:

Recipe #1

A great starter diet for a recently hatched wild bird like a woodpecker consists of 60% puppy or kitten kibble, 20% hard-boiled eggs, and 20% mealworms (you can buy those online or from your local pet store).

You should moisten the kibble with water until it reaches a sponge-like texture. Don’t let it drip water because it’s possible for a baby woodpecker to drown in the excess liquid.

Additionally, you should chop the hard-boiled eggs and mealworms into pieces small enough for the baby bird to swallow easily.

Recipe #2

Another good recipe for feeding a baby woodpecker consists of:

  • 1 can wet dog food (or 2 cups of dry dog food moistened and mashed)
  • 1/2 cup poultry mash (this is a terrific source of calcium and other essential vitamins)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped hard-boiled egg

What Foods Should You Not Give a Baby Woodpecker?

Right off the bat, you should not feed a baby woodpecker bread or milk. A lot of people make this mistake with baby birds and often end up harming them.

You see, birds aren’t like mammals; they can’t digest milk. It’s not a part of a bird’s natural diet so they’ll be intolerant to it.

Author Note: As for bread, it’s full of empty calories and won’t provide the baby bird with enough nutrients to survive. Also, whatever food you give the baby woodpecker, you should make sure you serve it at room temperature.

Additional examples of foods or liquids you shouldn’t give a baby woodpecker include:

  • Water (Typically, water shouldn’t be given orally to any baby bird because the fluid is likely to enter and fill their lungs, causing them to drown)
  • Worms
  • Pet bird food
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Whole birdseed

How often do Baby Woodpeckers Eat?

Baby woodpeckers, like most baby birds, eat quite frequently. They have very demanding feeding schedules where their parents literally make hundreds of feeding trips every day.

Ideally, you want to feed a baby woodpecker every 15 to 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset.

You can use a syringe, pipette, or eye-dropper for feeding. The more mature the baby woodpecker is, the longer it can go between feedings and the more “adult” food it can eat without harm.

How to Feed a Baby Woodpecker

Using the correct feeding technique is crucial to ensure that the baby woodpecker gets enough nutrition to survive.

In general, baby birds should be fed very carefully. The best tools you can use are either a pair of dull tweezers or plastic forceps.

If you can’t get your hands on any of these, you can try using a chopstick that’s narrow enough to fit in the bird’s mouth.

  • To start feeding, grab a tiny bit of food with the tweezers or forceps or on the edge of the chopstick then drop it into the baby woodpecker’s mouth directly. If you’re worried that the food will go down the wrong way, don’t be. The bird’s glottis will shut on its own while feeding.
  • If the baby bird’s mouth isn’t opening, tap the beak gently with the feeding instrument or lightly rub the food around the edge of the beak. This will help the baby woodpecker understand that it’s time to eat.
  • If the bird still won’t open its mouth, you’ll need to gently and carefully force it open.
  • Continue feeding the baby birds until it starts rejecting the food or becomes less eager to open its beak.
  • Avoid overfeeding the baby woodpecker.

Tips for Feeding a Baby Woodpecker

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind when feeding a baby woodpecker:

  • Offer food that has a spongy consistency.
  • Do not offer food that’s dripping with water because the excess fluid could cause choking or drowning.
  • All dry food should be softened before being offered to a baby woodpecker.
  • Food should be offered at room temperature only. Do not warm the food, heat it, refrigerate it, or chill it.
  • Feed the bird small bits of food and keep them in proportion to its size. The tinier the birds, the smaller the bites they need.
  • Mash, cut, or crush food to suit the baby bird’s size.
  • While feeding the baby bird, offer as little as possible to reduce the risk of additional stress or injury.
  • Never use too much force to pry the bird’s beak open to eat. Always be gentle.
  • Keep the bird warm. This is important to get it to eat. Wrap the baby woodpecker in a towel and put it under your shirt close to your skin.
  • Do not feed the bird when it’s cold. It’s not that it won’t eat, but it won’t be able to digest the food it downs. In this case, feeding could do more harm than good.
  • Do your best to create a low-stress environment for the baby woodpecker. Like most baby birds, it won’t thrive and eat unless kept in calm, low-stress conditions.

Wrap Up

Author Note: So what do baby woodpeckers eat? In nature, they feed on small insects, nuts, seeds, fruit, and tree sap brought in by the parents. At home, you can feed them mealworms, canned dog food, moistened dog biscuits, raw liver, and hard-boiled eggs.

Remember that feeding a baby wild bird should only be an emergency measure. If you find one that’s abandoned and needs care, contact or take it to a bird rescue organization as soon as possible.

Professionals there will help baby birds learn how to find food, evade predators, and several other skills required for a successful life in the wild. We hope you enjoyed this article on what do baby woodpeckers eat.

Fly high friends!

What to feed a woodpecker - a feeder and home conditions

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Maya Barsukova •

The woodpecker is considered the orderly of the forest. Only he has a flair for choosing diseased and infected trees. He eats harmful insects and their larvae, from which they lose their strength and die woody plants.

Woodpeckers have bright plumage. They cannot sing, nor can they fly well. These birds lead a sedentary lifestyle. You can also keep a woodpecker at home, offering food that the bird prefers to eat in nature.

What to feed woodpeckers in the feeder

In order for these beautiful and useful birds to become frequent guests in the garden bird canteen, it is advisable to feed the woodpeckers in the feeder with properly selected food. Woodpecker nutrition in wildlife is varied. They love nuts, various insects, do not refuse seeds and meat. Woodpeckers prefer those feeders in which food is similar to what they find every day in their natural habitat.

Do not forget that the woodpecker feeders must be upside down. Feeding woodpeckers in a vertical type feeder means keeping the birds in their correct position, similar to feeding in natural conditions.

The woodpecker is an insectivorous bird, but he will not refuse fruits in his diet, especially he likes apples. In winter, he prefers the interior fat of cows and sheep. This fat can be hung in its natural unprocessed form in small pieces on branches. And you can melt it and mix it with the seeds of any tree or cones and cool. Put this mixture directly into the feeders.

Woodpeckers are good eaters of piled maggots - only they need to tear off their heads before putting them in the feeder. Also, they will not refuse small cockroaches - they need to be pressed down a little. Woodpeckers and cereals, for example, millet, will peck with pleasure.

How to feed a woodpecker at home

A woodpecker is mobile and active in nature, therefore, it needs a large cage. You can make an aviary, inside which it is better to install tree trunks. The woodpecker must be kept alone, because it is hostile to other birds. He can cripple or even kill another feathered one.

Woodpeckers are voracious. He must have constant access to food. Feeding a woodpecker at home is not difficult. When feeding woodpeckers at home, you can add low-fat cottage cheese, hard-boiled and not coarsely chopped eggs, carrots and apple slices chopped on a fine grater.

This bird is good at cracking raw sunflower and hemp seeds. You can also feed woodpeckers with food from pet stores. Purchased crickets, worms, tree larvae, ant eggs can be added to the feed. Live insects should not be given to woodpeckers. A woodpecker can eat a butterfly, a caterpillar, a snail. You should try to give at home what the woodpecker eats in the wild.

In spring, you can offer the bird buds from trees or young shoots. Since in the natural environment he regales himself with meat, the raw or boiled meat of cows and birds will not be alien to him. You can offer raspberries, currants.

In the cold season, it is permissible to collect and give cones and nuts. In order for the woodpecker to start eating food unknown to him in nature, it is advisable to place him in the crevices of the trunks in the aviary. In the future, next to the trunk, it is necessary to place a vertical feeder with a drinking bowl for a pet.

What Woodpeckers Should Not Eat

Woodpeckers should not be fed bread, salted bacon, lard, roasted sunflower seeds or supplements. You can not pour spoiled, expired cereals and feed. No need to give cookies and yeasty, rich buns.

It is not advisable to treat them with seasoned crackers, potato chips. In warm months, it is required to exclude interior fat and lard from the diet, it melts under the influence of warm temperatures, sticks to feathers and stains the plumage of birds. In summer, do not give woodpeckers cones and nuts.

Tags: woodpecker, feeder, bird feeding and can be relatively independent. Having been born and dried, they can move well and, from the first days, in addition to mother's milk, eat "adult" food.

Undoubtedly, it is best for cubs with their mother, with her milk they receive the antibodies necessary for health, from her examples they learn how and what to eat, using her feces, populate their intestines with beneficial microflora, during the first week, mother licks them, especially carefully in the area of ​​\u200b\u200bthe “butt”, thus stimulating defecation and urination, babies warm themselves under their mother’s barrel, follow her in single file, learn to communicate, etc. Therefore, if the cubs are orphaned for some reason, try to find a foster mother for them. Usually, a guinea pig gives birth to one to four cubs, and a healthy mother pig, who has recently given birth to one or two babies, may well feed and leave a couple more orphans.

Food for nursing mothers and babies should be of very good quality - selected hay with a high calcium content, without sharp inclusions, branded granules with a special mark for young animals, always fresh clean drinking water, when the cubs grow up, they are gradually accustomed to green food, vegetables and fruits (fruits are given to pigs quite a bit, as a treat).

If the cubs have lost their mother or there is a weaker baby in the multiple litter, and the nurse could not be found, you will have to take care of feeding and caring for the little guinea pigs.

First of all, you need to get a scale to adequately assess whether the babies are gaining weight well, whether the diet suits them. They should be weighed immediately after birth and monitored daily for at least a week. As a rule, during the first two days, babies lose a little weight, and from the third day they begin to gain it.

The next thing owners who act as foster mothers to newborn guinea pigs should know is that their pets do not need to be supplemented with any kind of milk or milk substitutes. They can only mother's milk, no other is suitable for them and is prohibited.

If you are unable to purchase a special food for hand-feeding guinea pigs, you should use hay, regular pellets, compressed hay pellets, alfalfa, high in calcium, soaked in warm water, or left overnight to soak in the refrigerator, and in the morning crushed with a spoon and heated to room temperature, or ground in a coffee grinder (ground in a mortar with a pestle) with hay, and then stirred with liquid. You can add a small amount of boiled pumpkin or baby pumpkin puree without additional sugar and cream.

At first, babies should be fed every 1-2 hours, at least every 3 hours, feeding no more than 1-2 cm³ of food at a time. After each feeding, the baby should be given some water to drink, sometimes with vitamin C or a rehydron solution.

Some babies learn to spoon feed and some need to be syringe fed (see Anorexia in Guinea Pigs). When feeding and drinking from a syringe, make sure that the babies do not choke, the ingress of liquid or food into the respiratory tract can cause aspiration pneumonia, which is likely to lead to the death of the animal. Therefore, act calmly and slowly, comfortably seated with the baby. Make sure your baby stays clean and dry after feeding.

For the first 1-2 weeks after each feeding, small guinea pigs should definitely stimulate digestion, defecation and urination by doing a gentle massage in the "butt" area and gently stroking the bottom of the tummy, for this you can use a slightly damp warm towel.

For seeding the intestines of babies with beneficial microflora, the feces of a healthy guinea pig are most suitable, which must be stirred with a small amount of water and added to the “feed porridge”. Cubs will benefit from communication with their dad or older siblings if they are healthy and not aggressive. If necessary, the veterinarian will prescribe special preparations for the development of beneficial flora for babies.

Babies should always have fresh hay, pellets, green leafy vegetables, grass, water in their home to encourage them to eat on their own.

If you just need to support a weaker baby from a multiple litter, it is useful to leave him alone with his mother several times a day, taking the larger babies for 15-20 minutes.

Lonely and weak cubs will need an additional source of heat. Using an incandescent lamp for heating, make sure that the baby does not overheat and can, if necessary, hide in a cool corner. And when using various heating pads, make sure that they are not chewed (especially chemical and electrical).

Additional administration of vitamin or medicinal preparations should be consulted with a veterinarian ratologist in each specific case.

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