Woodpeckers are notorious for their noisy springtime mating ritual. However, during the summer months, “woodies” are welcomed exterminators for insects and other tiny pests. Their diet consists mainly of ants, moths, borers, scale insects, grasshoppers, grubs, beetles, millipedes, crickets, wasps, aphids, caterpillars, spiders, and other flying insects.
To help you combat these pesky garden enemies, you may consider attracting woodpeckers to your yard. Planting various fruit trees and bushes can be as effective as placing the appropriate feeders in your yard.
Although their staple food group is insects, woodpeckers also enjoy feasting on fruits and nuts. Planting berry-producing bushes or trees such as dogwood, apple, serviceberry, black cherry, flowering crabapple, common spicebush, golden currant, walnut, black gum, holly, red cedar, bayberry, or sugarbush will draw them to your yard. You can also attract woodpeckers by providing cracked corn, grapes, raisins, peanut butter, or apples on a platform feeder.
Because the majority of a woodpecker’s diet is animal protein and fats, suet is the perfect supplement to their diet. Suet, the fat that collects around beef kidneys, is available at grocery stores or at your local garden center. There are a variety of ways to offer suet. Suet can be smeared in the bark of a tree or mounted in hardware cages that are wired to posts or tree trunks. When feeding suet in the warmer months, monitor the feeder regularly to be sure the suet has not become rancid.
Woodpeckers also enjoy peanuts. Use unsalted cocktail peanuts in the jar or buy them in bulk at your local feed store. Peanut feeders are the safest way of feeding peanuts. These feeders are typically made of wire mesh and force the birds to peck at the nuts and get only small pieces. Whole peanuts can prove dangerous for birds (do not use a platform feeder with peanuts). As with all feeders, monitor your feeder regularly and avoid spoilage. Don’t be surprised if your peanut feeder is also visited by titmice, nuthatches, or Carolina wrens!