Most birdwatchers can give a straightforward answer to any bird’s diet. But a woodpecker’s diet most often draws different answers from different bird lovers.
A common confusion is, ‘Are woodpeckers omnivores?’ Let’s find out!
Are Woodpeckers Omnivores, Herbivores, or Carnivores?
Woodpeckers are omnivorous birds that feed on both plants and other animals.
The diet of a woodpecker consists of several types of small insects, spiders, earthworms, and even occasional small mammals.
Its herbivorous diet comprises primarily of conifer seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, both wild and cultivated, etc.
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Why Are Woodpeckers Omnivorous?
A primary reason for woodpeckers being omnivorous is that they do not migrate and stay in the same range all year round.
Woodpecker’s Diet Pattern:
Woodpeckers are extremely fond of bugs like ants, termites, grubs, caterpillars, beetles, grubs, etc.
They get to this food source by hammering, drilling, and drumming into the woods of the trees and throwing aside the chips.
It creates a hole, and woodpeckers extract insects from the tree using their long sticky tongues. However, they change their food preference according to the season and availability of food.
During early spring, the trees do not have many wood bugs but are abundant in rich sweet sap. Woodpeckers feed on it voraciously to move on to insects (a rich protein source) during spring and summer.
During the fall, when natural harvests are in abundance, woodpeckers satiate their hunger by eating nuts, seeds, and fruits.
During the winters, they feed on seeds and nuts, juices of leftover fruits, and some leftover fruits that might remain available.
An interesting fact is displayed by some species of woodpeckers, like the acorn woodpecker. They store food for winter months, during which food is often scarce.
They create extensive granary trees where they store tons of acorns.
Few also hide dead insects and seeds under loose pieces of bark or even bury them in the ground for later consumption when fresh food is not available.
How is a Woodpecker’s Diet Ecologically Advantageous?
Woodpeckers play an important role ecologically by helping keep the trees healthy.
Eating the wood-boring grubs helps prevent mass infestation of the trees, thereby keeping them healthy to live long and propagate well.
It should also be noted that woodpeckers barely harm or damage the tree despite its hammering and digging the tree. It is because they mostly prefer digging on and excavating dead wood instead of the healthy ones.
As most trees inevitably have some dead wood, the woodpecker’s digging does not cause any harm to the tree. Instead, it keeps them healthy, as discussed above.
Attracting Woodpeckers to Your Backyard with Food
If woodpeckers reside in your area, you can attract them with appropriate food and the right feeder to your backyard.
Selecting an appropriate feeder for the woodpecker is important to make it a regular visitor. A popular choice is a suet feeder. However, it should be securely anchored and should have a tail prop panel or anything else resembling it.
It provides the right support for the woodpeckers to feed on the food. Many attach it to the trunk of the tree as well to offer the perfect support.
Hopper or tray feeders and saucer-style nectar feeders also function as excellent feeders for the woodpeckers. Sometimes woodpeckers also sip nectar from the hummingbird feeders.
The best food to serve the woodpeckers is their natural food. They also love to feed on popular backyard foods like sunflower seeds, peanut butter, mealworms, nectar, fruits like apples, oranges, fruit blends, etc.
The food must not have insecticides as it would kill the insects that are a favorite food of the woodpeckers.
The backyard should preferably have trees that attract the woodpeckers and can be a food source.
It includes berry bushes (especially those that bear fruits in winter), fruit trees, nut-bearing trees like oak, seed-bearing flower trees, etc.
Now let’s look at a few general queries that people have about woodpecker’s diet.
Do woodpeckers eat meat?
Woodpeckers are highly adaptable and would eat any food that is available to them, including meat.
What type of meat do woodpeckers eat?
Woodpeckers often eat any type of carcass that is available to them like breast meat, heart and fat deposits, lungs, etc.
Do woodpeckers eat other birds?
Generally, woodpeckers do not eat other birds or even kill them.
A few species like red-headed woodpeckers can attack other birds to drive them out of their territory. Few other species tend to eat the brain as well as the flesh of babies like chickens to satiate their hunger.
Related Read: Which birds eat mealworms? | How do birds find worms?
Like many birds, woodpeckers have a hearty appetite and feed on a plethora of food. They stand out because of their vertical foraging on trees.
They are also nature’s pest control service. They must always be served the best food that can be made available to them in the backyard if invited.