What to feed baby woodpeckers

What Do Woodpeckers Eat? 8 Foods to Offer

Ask any backyard birder what woodpeckers eat, and there will always be many different answers. Woodpeckers stay in the same range year-round, but as the seasons change they alter their diets to take advantage of easily available foods that meet their nutritional needs. The exact foods preferred by each species vary, but the most popular woodpecker foods include:

  • Insects, especially wood-boring insects, grubs, spiders, and ants
  • Tree sap
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Berries and fruit, including juice from broken fruit
  • Flower nectar

Understanding what woodpeckers eat can help birders provide the best woodpecker food at their feeders, and can help birders in the field know how to find feeding woodpeckers to observe.

Drumming and Eating

Many novice birders and non-birders mistakenly assume that woodpecker drumming is related to feeding and that woodpeckers may even eat the wood or sawdust they peck. In fact, while some woodpeckers may use drumming to help dislodge insects to eat or to drill holes to get at sap or burrowing insects, drumming is often unrelated to eating. Instead, drumming is a method of communication, typically used to advertise a territory or attract a mate. In some cases, vigorous drumming also warns off intruders or scares away potential predators, especially if the bird is drumming on a loud, resonant object. While woodpeckers will use their bills as tools when feeding, they do so by prying insects out of wood rather than just hitting the wood, and no woodpeckers actually eat wood.

Woodpecker Food Sources

Depending on the season, a woodpecker may eat several different things. Woodpeckers change their diets according to what food sources are most abundant. Sap is a popular food in the spring when few other foods are available, but rich, sweet sap is rising in trees reawakening after a long winter. In the spring and summer, these birds feast primarily on insects that provide high levels of protein for breeding birds and growing hatchlings. In the fall, nuts, seeds, and fruit are popular foods for woodpeckers because of plentiful natural harvests. In the winter, seeds and nuts are the most abundant foods, as well as some leftover fruit that remains on sturdy bushes or trees.

In addition to varying their food choices by season, some species will even store foods for colder months when supplies are scarce. The acorn woodpecker, for example, creates extensive granary trees to hold hundreds or thousands of acorns. Smaller woodpeckers may hide seeds or dead insects under loose bits of bark, or even bury them in the ground to retrieve later if fresher foods aren't available.

Young baby woodpeckers tended by their parents have largely the same diet—small insects, nuts, seeds, fruit, and tree sap. The parents will feed them exactly the same foods you are offering them at your feeders. Should you come across an abandoned baby woodpecker, you can give them emergency foods such as mealworms, canned dog food, moistened dog biscuits, raw liver, and hard-boiled eggs, offered in small quantities with tweezers. But as soon as possible, bring the baby bird to an animal rescue service that has the expertise and supplies to give the baby woodpecker a decent chance for long-term survival.

ksblack99 / Flickr / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Attracting Woodpeckers With Food

Woodpeckers will visit yards that offer appropriate foods all year round. The most popular foods for woodpeckers at feeders include:

  • Suet, especially nut, insect, or fruit blends
  • Fruit, including oranges, grapes, and apples
  • Sunflower seeds, either whole or hulled
  • Peanuts, either whole or shelled
  • Peanut butter or peanut butter blends
  • Mealworms, either live or dried
  • Nectar, either for orioles or hummingbirds
  • Jelly, particularly grape, apple, or marmalade flavors

The types of feeders available are also important for feeding woodpeckers. Suet feeders should be securely anchored and provide a tail prop panel or similar support for woodpeckers to feed, or may be attached to the trunk of a tree for good support. Hopper or tray feeders are the most effective for offering other types of foods while allowing these birds comfortable room to perch. Smaller woodpeckers, such as the downy woodpecker, may cling to a variety of cage feeders, and woodpeckers will also cling to dried sunflower heads to feed directly from the plants. Birders will also occasionally see woodpeckers sipping from hummingbird feeders, especially feeder styles that include wide bases or good perches. Providing saucer-style nectar feeders can be effective for feeding woodpeckers.

Providing natural foods for woodpeckers is an even easier way to attract these birds and sate their appetites. The best ways to ensure natural foods for woodpeckers include:

  • Minimizing or eliminating insecticide use that would remove insects from the food chain.
  • Planting berry bushes for birds, especially bushes that retain fruit into winter.
  • Planting fruit trees for birds, and allowing some fruit to hang well into the winter.
  • Planting oak trees or other nut-bearing trees and bushes for woodpeckers to use.
  • Adding seed-bearing flowers to the landscape for ground-foraging woodpeckers.

Like all birds, woodpeckers eat a variety of different foods. Birders who offer a range of foods, both naturally and in the appropriate feeders, can easily attract woodpeckers with hearty appetites all year long.

9 Common Woodpecker Species and Diet Specifics

  • Downy Woodpecker: This is one of the smallest woodpeckers, at 5 to 7 inches in length. It can be found over much of the United States year-round. The belly is predominantly white, the back is black with white bars. It is easily confused with the hairy woodpecker, which has identical markings but is a larger bird. The downy woodpecker eats mostly small insects but also nuts, berries, and seeds. A feeder filled with sunflower seeds and cracked corn is especially effective at attracting downy woodpeckers, as is suet mixed with peanut butter.
  • Hairy Woodpecker: This species has very similar coloring to the downy woodpecker, but is a larger bird, at 6 to 9 inches in length. It can be found year-round over much of the United States. It is primarily an insect-eater, but also consumes nuts, seeds, and berries. In winter, it is very fond of suet and black-oil sunflower seeds.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker: Although this bird has a reddish-orange head, it is named for the rusty orange hues on its abdomen. It is a medium-sized woodpecker, 7 to 9 inches long. Though sometimes confused with the red-headed woodpecker, this species has a body color with alternating bars of white and black, not the large sections seen in the red-headed woodpecker. Offering sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet is a good strategy for attracting this bird.
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker: This striking bird has a solid dark red head and solid black and white body color. It is a medium-sized woodpecker (7 to 9 inches), found mostly in the east-central United States, migrating to the north during the summer breeding season. Loss of habitat has threatened this bird over much of its historic range, and bird-watchers are usually thrilled to spot one at a bird feeder. It is an omnivorous feeder that consumes bugs, berries, seeds, and sometimes even small rodents. You have a decent chance of attracting this woodpecker if you live within its range and offer a varied diet including suet and a water source.
  • Pileated Woodpecker: This is one of the largest woodpeckers, at 16 to 19 inches in length. It is found year-round in the far northern United States and in the Southeast. It has large areas of black and white coloring, with a crested head of solid red. Pileated woodpeckers are almost exclusively insect eaters. The best way to attract them is to allow dead trees and stumps to remain on your property and to maintain suet feeders and birdbaths.
  • Flicker: Several types of flicker are found across the United States, all notable for their overall brownish color interrupted by black bars and splotches. They are medium-to-large woodpeckers (around 12 inches). Most types have sections of red somewhere on the head. The yellow-shafted flicker is regarded as a subspecies of the red-shafted flicker—the red-shafted found in the western United States, the yellow-shafted in the East. Flickers typically eat at ground level on ants and beetles and are not commonly seen at feeders. However, maintaining birdbaths in your yard may well attract flickers.
  • Ladder-Backed Woodpecker: This smallish woodpecker (about 6 to 7 inches long) has alternating white and black bars along its back. The males have a narrow cap of red. Its primary diet is larval and adult insects and fruit. It is found year-round in the Southwest United States.
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker: This colorful woodpecker with yellow splotches can be found in many areas of North America at different times during its migrations. It has a typical woodpecker diet but is especially fond of fruit. It is an average-sized bird, 7 to 8 inches long. In summer, it is found in the Northern United States; in the winter, in the U.S. South and Southeastern states; and in the east-central United States during migration periods. As the name suggests, it has a fondness for tree sap. The best way to attract them is to plant maple, birch, or beech trees, or to offer suet.
  • Acorn Woodpecker: This common west-coast woodpecker has a clown-like facial pattern and a notorious appetite for acorns. Offering acorns in your feeders is very likely to draw in these birds if you live in their region.
clay53012 / Flickr / CC by 2.0

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

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Chicks on schedule. In the family of great spotted woodpeckers addition

Chicks of great spotted woodpeckers appeared in the territory of the nature reserve CJSC "Valleys of the Setun River" and the natural territory of the South-West Administrative District "Kuzminki-Lyublino". The news about the addition to the family of birds was reported by specialists of the Mospriroda. This spring, ornithologists managed to record several important moments in the life of "forest orderlies": the construction of nests, which began in mid-May, as well as a meeting with their "soulmate". By the way, woodpeckers are monogamous, that is, pairs form once and for life.

According to Mospriroda, these birds build new hollows for their offspring every year, and other birds occupy their old, last year's dwellings. Nests of large spotted woodpeckers can be found on birches, aspens, willows, pines. The wood of these trees is soft and well suited for building birdhouses.

During the nesting period, the female lays 5-7 white eggs, which are incubated by both parents in turn. Now, when the woodpeckers have already hatched chicks, “moms” and “dads” are busy feeding their children: they bring food for their cubs in their beaks.

After 2-3 weeks, the hatched chicks will fledge, start learning to fly and will already get their own food, so, as ornithologists say, soon there will be more of these bright beauties in the parks.

Great spotted woodpeckers are distinguished by their spectacular black and white coloration, and their undertail is colored red. Young males “complement” their bright image with a red cap, which covers the entire crown, and when the birds grow up, only a spot on the back of the head remains from the cap.

In summer, the birds feed on insects that are found in tree trunks, and in winter they switch to plant foods, including coniferous tree seeds in their diet.

- Woodpeckers are common birds for Moscow and its environs. Sometimes they are found even in residential areas of the capital: they fly to feeders in winter and summer.

Despite the cold spring, birds nested and laid their eggs, as they say, according to the schedule. According to some assumptions, self-isolation has made its contribution. The almost complete absence of people in the forests and parks of the capital in April and May also benefited the nesting period, - said Nikolai Kudryavtsev, specialist of Mospriroda. - In general, it can be noted that every year there are more birds in the city, which move from forests and parks closer to residential areas and even industrial zones.

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