So, how do you attract Pileated Woodpeckers into your yard?
Luckily, anyone can attract Pileated Woodpeckers to their yard and continue to have frequent visits by using a few resources necessary for their habitat and by being patient. Below we go into detail on what you should be doing to attract such an amazing bird that any bird lover would love to have visit.
How To Attract Woodpeckers To Your Yard?
8 Guaranteed Ways:
- The Right Food
- Woodpecker Feeders
- Perching Space
- Private Nesting Spots
- Keeping their nest Spots Clean
- Private Feeders
- Private Bird Baths (Water Supply)
- Trees and Plants (Preferably Dead Trees and Limbs)
Let’s start first by learning a little bit about these interesting birds. Then we can learn exactly what to do to attract such a shy bird.
Pileated Woodpecker’s Size and Where They Live
The Pileated Woodpecker is a big beautiful bird about the size of a crow with a black body and a distinctive white striped face. You can easily spot a Pileated Woodpecker by the bright red hair on the top of its head.
Mostly found in the woodlands of the United States, even in Canada and the Northern parts of California. This bird favors mature forests and heavily wooded areas but may stick around if they have abundant dead trees to feed and nest on.
No doubt, attracting Pileated Woodpeckers is a hot topic for many bird enthusiasts and is on the must-see list.
Pileated Woodpecker’s Diet
Pileated Woodpecker’s diet mostly consists of carpenter ants (other ants), beetles, insect larvae, termites, flies, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers. They even enjoy wild fruits such as hackberry, blackberries, elderberries, sassafras, and sumac berries.
Studies have shown a Pileated Woodpeckers diet is made up of 40 percent of ants and can range up to 97 percent for some Pileated Woodpeckers. However, Pileated Woodpeckers have been known to visit backyard bird feeders for food such as seeds, suet, or berries.
The Pileated Woodpecker spends most of its time hunting and locating food when it is not looking for a companion, and this is when the wood pecking tends to happen.
A great way to attract Pileated Woodpeckers is to have abundant mature trees, stumps, and limbs in your backyard. However, this isn’t always possible, and instead, we can use bird feeders to attract woodpeckers.
Best Way To Attract A Pileated Woodpecker
So, the number ONE way to attract a pileated woodpecker to your backyard is by creating an environment that says, “Hey, there is food here“! An easy way to get the woodpecker to your feeder is by using one large enough for the Pileated Woodpecker to feed on easily. They are quite big birds, about the size of a crow.
Most of the foods in a woodpecker’s diet are not practical to offer at feeders. Don’t worry; we will share a great cheap alternative food that Pileated Woodpeckers love!
(This post may include affiliate links, you can read our full disclosure here.)
How To Attract Pileated Woodpeckers To Your Bird Feeders?
Woodpeckers Love Suet
Woodpeckers love suet and is an easy way to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your yard and feeders.
Suet is rendered animal fat mixed with nuts, corn, or berries formed into cakes, balls, or plugs. There are many different suet feeders that you can use with store-bought suet or even the homemade suet, which I share below. The best way to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard feeders is to buy different feeders and test out what works best in your backyard and what attracts them the most.
Don’t let them fool you; they also love seeds such as sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Peanut Suet Is A Pileated Woodpeckers Favorite
You can buy peanut suet already made up that doesn’t melt and can use year-round. Many individuals have had success using this peanut suet to attract many species of woodpeckers to their yard. Here is the no-melt peanut suet we recommend to use for best results on attracting Pileated Woodpeckers to your feeder.
How to Make Homemade Suet
Here is an easy homemade suet you can make that the birds will love.
- 1 Cup of lard or shortening (Crisco)
- 1 Cup of cornmeal,
- 1 Cup of peanut butter
- 2 Cups of oatmeal
- 2 Cups of birdseed
You can even add some dried fruit for a sweet treat.
- Melt the lard and peanut butter together in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the oatmeal.
- Add the birdseed and cornmeal and stir.
- Pack down into containers (sandwich bowls) to shape the bricks of suet.
- Wrap in aluminum foil and freeze overnight.
- Remove the suet from the containers and add to bird feeders.
Let the suet sit to become solid or freeze overnight. After it has formed, you can then cut it into bricks or roll it into balls to put in your feeders. There are many different ways to make suet and use suet. Experiment to find out what works best in your backyard.
Bark Butter Suet To Attract Pileated Woodpeckers
Bark butter is an effective way for attracting pileated woodpeckers to your yard.
Bark butter is a spreadable suet that can be smeared on tree bark or a bark butter feeder to attract birds including woodpeckers. Most bark butter is made of rendered beef suet, peanuts, cornmeal or corn, and sometimes oats. The cornmeal helps to stick the suet to the tree bark or to the feeder.
Bark butter is a great way to attract pileated woodpeckers to your yard. But it’s important to make sure that you use a feeder that is designed for woodpeckers to get the best results. You can also smear the bark butter directly on tree bark, but make sure that you avoid putting it on trees that are in high-traffic areas.
Best Bird Feeders To Attract Pileated Woodpeckers
Cake Baskets Feeders
Cake basket feeders are the most popular feeder because they are inexpensive, and they work. This is the best way to start feeding woodpeckers in your backyard today. Cake baskets are simple feeders, a square metal cage that fits suet cakes perfectly.
If you find a hopper-style feeder, these allow suet cake baskets to be attached on the sides of the feeder to allow the woodpeckers to feed. It is best to use the largest cake basket you can find. Otherwise, you can still very well attract smaller woodpeckers.
We recommend this XL suet cake basket feeder for woodpeckers.
Suet Cake Baskets With Tail Prop
These feeders are great for the woodpeckers as they allow the woodpecker to feed naturally as they would on a tree.
Also, in these feeders, you will use suet cakes as your primary food as you do the suet cake baskets above.
We absolutely love these suet cake basket feeders as they have two baskets for suet and a big tail prop for Pileated Woodpeckers. If you have a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers on your property, this is a great feeder for the pair.
Ball feeders are another great option to feed woodpeckers with suet. This type of feeder uses suet balls instead of suet cakes or suet plugs. The suet is rolled into different size balls for the Pileated Woodpeckers. You can use small suet balls or large suet balls; each size will require different feeders.
When using large suet balls, find a feeder that allows space between the wires and can hold many suet balls. This allows the woodpeckers to access the food easily.
We recommend this large suet ball feeder as it is quite large for Pileated Woodpeckers.
If you use “nuggets” small suet balls, you can use a platform feeder or a wire mesh feeder to allow the woodpecker to feed on.
Here is a great inexpensive mesh nugget feeder.
Birdseed Cylinder Feeder
Birdseed cylinder feeder is another great option to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your yard. This type of feeder holds a big clump of bird food that is shaped into a cylinder. A hole is then drilled down the center of the cylinder feeder to allow you to hang it from a pole.
These feeders tend to last longer than loose birdseed, as woodpeckers don’t waste birdseed by dropping it to the ground. Birds usually stay longer at cylinder feeders as it takes them longer to get every seed. Lastly, these feeders are convenient as they have every food group meshed into the solid clump of food.
To attract woodpeckers with a cylinder birdseed feeder, pick one made of suet or nuts to get the best results.
Tree Trunk Feeder: Plug Feeder
Suet plug feeders are a great addition to your backyard as it is more natural. These feeders represent a tree trunk or a log that hangs vertically with holes drilled into the sides.
Hanging a woodpecker feeder that holds suet plugs gives your backyard a unique and more natural look. Most suet plug feeders look like a log that hangs down vertically with a few holes drilled into the sides.
You can stuff the holes with suet or even Bark Butter. Woodpeckers love these feeders as it is an easy natural meal.
Pictured below, we recommend this log suet plug feeder as many individuals have had success in bringing woodpeckers to this specific one.
A plug feeder is simple and can be easily made at home if you don’t want to buy one. All you need is a log about 20 to 24 inches. Drill some holes about one inch to an inch and a half all around the log. Drill a small hole at the top of the log for hanging wire, and then fill the holes with suet or bark butter.
You can hang these types of feeders on a post; make sure to put them high enough to prevent squirrels from getting into the feeders.
A peanut feeder is also a great option due to the fact woodpeckers love peanuts. They are a great tasty snack they will love to come to enjoy in your backyard. Peanut feeders are tub-shaped and filled with in-shell or out-of-the-shell peanuts. Peanut feeders make the woodpeckers work for the peanuts as they would on a mature tree.
We recommend this peanut feeder pictured below as it is big enough for woodpeckers and can hold up to 1 lb of peanuts or sunflower seeds. It is a durable mesh metal feeder with almost five stars. (Made in the USA)
Create a Perching Space
To provide the right habitat, you should create perching spaces for Pileated Woodpeckers.
Creating perching spaces for pileated woodpeckers is important because it provides them with a place to rest and eat. Perching spaces can be created by using wood or tree limbs or installing a bird feeder or a birdhouse that has a perch. If you don’t want to construct your own bird perches, there are plenty of options available online as well.
When woodpeckers are feeding, they like to have their two feet and tail touching the surface. Pileated woodpeckers prefer to have their tail pressed against a solid surface when pecking on a tree as well. Providing houses and feeders that allow tail props encourage woodpeckers to come back to your yard.
Most Pileated Woodpeckers have two front toes and two back toes. They use their back toes and tail feathers as a brace when climbing trees. This allows woodpeckers to grip structures in a vertical position. Tail props give them the proper technique they need to hang in a vertical position. However, it’s best to provide plenty of perching space with your tail props as Pileated Woodpeckers are large birds.
If you want to attract these beautiful birds to your yard, make sure you provide the right food and create perching spaces for them.
Create A Private Birdbath
Pileated woodpeckers as any bird need water, therefore having a birdbath close by your feeder only helps by not requiring them to travel far for water. Like many bird lovers, you probably already have a birdbath in your backyard. Keeping the birdbath clean and adding some bright colored plants by your birdbath can help grab the woodpecker’s attention and draw them into the birdbath.
However, woodpeckers are private birds and tend to isolate themselves from other birds. Natural birdbaths work better when attracting woodpeckers instead of pedestal birdbaths. A ground birdbath in a shaded, quiet area is a great option instead. They won’t be scared off by too many birds visiting the bath regularly.
Ensure the water level is quite shallow and provide nearby perches and feeders to make them more comfortable using the birdbath.
Create a Nesting Area
Nesting boxes and birdhouses are great for Pileated Woodpeckers as it invites them to your yard by allowing they a place to nest and lay their young. It also reminds them of the excavated space they create in trees for nests. It can also benefit you if you want to keep them away from trees you want to safeguard.
Picking the right birdhouse or nesting box is very important; your box should be about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches wide for the entrance hole for Pileated Woodpeckers. Allow two small hinges for a lid, and provide a cavity depth of 9” to 15” from the bottom. Holes will differ depending on the size of the woodpecker. Always mount your birdhouses 15 to 20 feet in the air to allow a safe, isolated nesting area.
If you have dead trees or limbs on your property, you may want to leave during nesting season as this attracts Pileated Woodpeckers to nest in your yard.
You should expect nesting to happen in the middle of May until about a week or two into July. Keep this in mind if you put up a nesting box during a month that woodpeckers are not actively nesting.
Keep Dead Trees and Limbs
One way to attract pileated woodpeckers to your yard is by keeping dead limbs and trees. Mature trees are essential for food, nesting sites, and homes for woodpeckers.
Pileated woodpeckers like to eat insects that are found in dead trees and limbs.
Also, they prefer dead and rotting trees to make nests. Any dead trees, limbs, or stumps you may have in your backyard provide a source of food for Pileated Woodpeckers.
These birds prefer to live in areas with a lot of dead trees and limbs, as they provide the perfect habitat for Pileated Woodpeckers. By leaving these things in your yard, you can provide the perfect environment for these birds to live in.
“Quick tip” be careful using insecticides in your yard as this will minimize the insect population and Woodpeckers will not have insects to feed on.”
Create a Private Feeding Space
One way to attract pileated woodpeckers to your yard is by creating a private feeding spot.
Pileated woodpeckers are territorial, shy, and solitary birds. They do not like to be bothered, especially when they have active nests. To avoid stressing out the woodpecker and encouraging them to visit your backyard more often, provide them with an isolated feeding and water station from other birds.
Providing more than one large feeder is also beneficial in attracting woodpeckers to your backyard as this gives them more options to visit feeders privately. Make sure you always position your feeders close to mature trees or limbs or where they will feel most comfortable.
Keep Nesting Boxes And Birdhouses Clean
One of the best ways to keep pileated woodpeckers coming back to your yard during nesting season is to make sure that your nesting boxes and birdhouses are clean. Woodpeckers will avoid nesting in dirty boxes, so make sure to scrub them out after every nesting season.
Since a nasty, damaged nesting box is not very appealing to woodpeckers you should always check to make sure they are clean at all times when they are not in use. This will give you the best results in attracting Pileated Woodpeckers to your bird feeders.
Furthermore, used nests can be overwhelmed with fleas, mites, and lice. Nesting sites that are not cleaned can spread parasites and diseases between birds.
To clean nesting boxes, use 90 percent water and 10 percent chlorine bleach to spray the box down. Remove any debris and replace it with clean wood chips each season. You can leave your nesting boxes up during the winter until spring for your woodpecker’s next nesting season.
Providing food on a regular basis is important in attracting pileated woodpeckers and maintaining their visits.
Pileated Woodpeckers don’t just show up in your backyard overnight. It takes them a little longer compared to other birds such as chickadees. They are shy birds that tend to stay isolated from people and other species of birds. Even after providing them with all the essential accommodations, it will take some time before they come into your yard.
Get a variety of feeders and offer different food options for best results. If you happen to have a woodpecker close by already, then you can attract them to your backyard and feeders faster than normal. It can be a challenge, but patience is key with these birds.
Being consistent with food and isolated water spots is a great start to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard and to continue to have frequent visits each season.
Eating Habits Of A Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated woodpeckers spend most of their time searching and wood pecking to find such insects to feed on just under the tree’s bark for a sweet treat. Their main source of food is the carpenter ants. Carpenter ants make up about forty percent of their diet. However, they also like to eat…
- Sumac berries
- Poison Ivy/Oak
- Bark butter
- Peanut butter
Behavior Of A Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpeckers peck a distinctive rectangular-shaped hole into mature trees to find ants and other insects. They can be loud birds, and their drumming is usually a slow, deep, continuous pattern. You may hear a rolling sound from the Pileated Woodpeckers drumming.
A Pileated Woodpecker pair stay together on their territory year-round. They defend their territory in all seasons but may tolerate outsiders during the winter season. The male usually picks the nesting site while the female lays between 3-5 eggs. Eggs are incubated for about 16 days by the pair, and both male and female feed their young.
The family will stay together until fall; then, the adult woodpeckers will feed and teach the young how to find their own food. September is when the family will break up, and the young will go off to find their own territories.
Pileated Woodpeckers are forest birds that live on standing dead trees or downed wood. They thrive on mature forests that are old and particularly located in the West. You may find them in young forests along the East as they have been spotted in partially wooded areas and backyards.
Pileated Woodpeckers are common birds and numerous. According to the USDA, Pileated Woodpeckers’ population and sightings have continued to increase between 2010 to 2015, more than any period since they started monitoring Pileated Woodpeckers. Approximately 1.9 million Pileated Woodpeckers live globally. About 67% of those are in the United States.
Woodpeckers tongues are very long. Their tongues can be double the size of their bills, making it an excellent tool for grabbing insects and carpenter ants from the inside of dead and fallen trees.
Pileated Woodpecker Male vs Female: How To Tell The Difference?
A female Pileated Woodpecker has white strips on her face that continues down her neck and a bright red chest. Male Pileated Woodpeckers have a red stripe across their cheek. Female Pileated Woodpeckers share the red chest with male Pileated Woodpeckers but lack the red stripe. This is how you can tell the difference between male and female Pileated Woodpeckers. Look for the red stripe across the male’s cheek.
How Fast Can You Attract a Pileated Woodpecker?
This really depends on numerous factors; of course, it is not the easiest thing to attract woodpeckers to your backyard. However, it is possible to do with the right accommodations and patience. It can vary from a few weeks to a few months to even a year or longer before spotting a woodpecker. Attracting woodpeckers to your yard can be a challenge, but one that is well worth it for bird lovers!
If there is a woodpecker nearby, it won’t be as hard to attract them as if there are no woodpeckers in your area.
How Common Are Pileated Woodpeckers?
Pileated Woodpeckers are common birds and can be spotted even in lightly wooded suburbs or young forests. Spottings of Pileated Woodpeckers have continued to grow in the 2000s, and their population continues to grow each year by 1.5%.
How long do woodpeckers stay in one place?
Pileated Woodpeckers can stay in the same territory all year round, depending on the necessary accommodations to survive and raise young. Young usually stay in the nest for about 3 weeks before moving on to find their own territory.
Do woodpeckers come back to the same spot?
Some woodpeckers may return each spring to the same cavity to nest. While other woodpeckers may find new cavities each year.
The Pileated Woodpecker is a big and beautiful bird that any birdwatcher would love to have as a frequent visitor in their own backyard. The right feeders, private nesting boxes, dead trees and limbs, and the right kind of food will most definitely improve your chances of bringing in the woodpecker to your yard to watch and enjoy as they nest, feed, and raise their young. Remember to keep their nesting area clean and isolate your feeders and water supply from other birds. Don’t forget patience is key to attracting woodpeckers to your backyard.