There are many common varieties of woodpeckers, such as the Northern Flicker, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, and the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. There are more than 20 species found in North America. Woodpeckers are cavity nesters and love dead trees.

About Woodpeckers

There are over 20 varieties of woodpeckers found in North America. The most common and abundant woodpecker is the Downy, which is also the smallest at 6". The pileated woodpecker at about 19", is North America's largest. One distinctive feature of all the woodpeckers is that they are a vertical bird, often supporting themselves with their tail feathers as they cling to a feeder or the side of a tree. It is easy to identify woodpeckers with their dressed up plumage mostly in the colors of black, white and red. The uniqueness in woodpeckers is their long tongue which they can extend out more than the length of their head. This helps them to extract insects and grubs deep within a tree. Another feature is found in their toes, having 2 forward and 2 backward compared to most other birds that have 3 toes forward and 1 backward.

Identifying Woodpeckers

The Downy Woodpecker and the Hairy Woodpecker have almost the same markings, but the Hairy is 9" compared to the Downy at 6". These pretty birds are black and white with red on the back of their heads. The 10" Red-Bellied Woodpecker does not have a red belly, but a silky scarlet head with variegated black and white feathers. The Red-Headed Woodpecker looks like it is wearing a tuxedo and is very distinctive with its bright red head and black and white feathers. It is about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker. One of the noisiest woodpeckers is the 12" ant-eating Northern Flicker. This large bird has a crescent shaped black bib, polka dots and chevron markings with either a red or yellow shaft. There are many more woodpeckers, but these may be a few of the woodpeckers you can expect to see in your yard.

Types of Shelter

Woodpeckers live mainly in trees excavating a nesting cavity in a dead tree or hole in a living tree. They are also after insects and bugs and when you hear the hammering and drumming on the trees. Loss of habitat has caused a decline in woodpeckers through the years. Consider leaving the dead tree standing in your yard for the woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers are monogamous and work together to chisel out their nesting cavity. The male takes on a lot of the responsibility of incubation and brooding. All woodpecker eggs are white. It takes about 4 weeks before the babies hatch (time varies among the species) and then they hang with the parents another month.

Attracting Woodpeckers

Besides eating the insects and grubs, you can attract woodpeckers by offering their favorite foods. Suet is number one on their list. Suet contains fat and gives them energy, especially important during the cold months. Birds Choice Suet Sandwich feeder is perfect because it limits the suet to only the woodpeckers by using their long tongue, they are the only ones that can extract it. The feeder uses a thin sliced peanut butter suet, but you can also make your own suet and spread it between the 2 bark panels on the feeder.

Peanuts are another favorite and Birds Choice has a specific Woodpecker Feeder that only has openings on the side where the woodpeckers hang to eat the shelled peanuts. Other feeders that hold peanuts or a peanut blend will also be used by the woodpeckers in your yard. Woodpeckers will eat black oil sunflower but are not able to crack the seeds with their bills, so they will leave the feeder to find a place to crack them open. Hulled sunflower is a good replacement and easier for them to eat. Woodpeckers will also eat fruit and drink the nectar from flowers. Birds Choice offers many different kinds of Woodpecker feeders.

Woodpeckers Pecking at the House

Occasionally we hear about woodpeckers hammering or drumming on cedar or pine house siding or a telephone pole. The reason for this could be that it is trying to attract a mate or establish their territory. It also could be that he senses insects or grubs behind the siding. Tom Seamans, USDA woodpecker depredation expert, offers these tips to stop the pecking: 1) put up plastic crop netting attaching it in a way that the bird cannot get to the inside; 2) transfer, capture the bird and relocate it a good distance away; 3) continually play bird alarm tapes; 4) install a man-made woodpecker nest box filled with wood chips directly above the excavation. Luckily the woodpeckers resort to pecking on siding a relatively short time.
To attract woodpeckers, offer them suet. There are many varieties of suet and you can try different flavors and determine which is preferred, however they are usually not fussy! Woodpeckers also like hulled and black oil sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, safflower or nutrasaff, corn products and especially tree nuts.