Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Attracting Woodpeckers

There are approximately 20 species of woodpeckers found in North America. Perhaps the one with the most notoriety and certainly the most press in the Ivory Billed Woodpecker sometimes referred to as the “Lord-to-God Bird”. Its existence is a matter of much debate. You need not worry about it coming into your backyard. Its closest cousin, the Pileated, does visit backyards in the wooded South.

More commonly seen in backyards are the Red Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. The Sapsucker doesn’t like feeders because of its unique feeding habits. It prefers to drill small holes in trees from which sap exudes. The bird then sucks up this sap, hence its name. The Golden Fronted Woodpeckers will show up at feeders, too.

In order to attract woodpeckers one can put out suet. Suet feeders can be quite inexpensive and one can make their own suet or it can be purchased. Another possibility is a peanut feeder. These feeders are tubular and made of wire mesh. Filled with cracked shelled peanuts, you are going to have a whole lot of fun watching woodpeckers feeding.

Woodpeckers need places to nest and to drum. For this purpose they seek limbs and trees that have a resonating quality. One of the best things you can provide for woodpeckers is a snag. As unusual as it sounds, consider not cutting down a dead tree. If the tree is too tall and could topple over on your house or other structure, consider merely topping it off and leaving the rest. This author has done this in his backyard. To be sure, his arborist was, shall we say, a bit taken aback by his request. However, he has both Downies and Red Bellies drumming away on this hackberry snag. Our backyard has been host to several broods of both Downies and Red Bellies, too.

Photo by Bill Ravenscroft

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At February 4, 2010 at 6:17 PM , Blogger Alison said...

What a gorgeous photo. My parents in Maryland had a towering poplar, long since hit by lightning, that they left standing and dead in the woods in the backyard, far enough from the house to cause no problems--and close enough to see wood chips go flying from under a pileated's beak. What a sight!

Had a ladderback here in my backyard today in northern California. Glorious.

--AlisonH at


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