What Do Woodpeckers Eat? What Is Woodpeckers Favorite Food?

Woodpecker is an arboreal bird belonging to the Picidae family and lives in forest or woodland habitats. 

They forge insects by pecking holes on tree trunks or making a comfortable place secured from potential predators.

Woodpeckers are loud birds that make up to 12,000 tapping sounds per day while drilling in woods in search of food or drumming to attract a mate. 

Like any other avian species, woodpeckers are swift and have a sharp sense to find their food and change their diet according to climatic conditions. 

The majority of the birds are not social and move alone or in pairs in search of food and shelter.

Their unique tongue and skulls provide the insight to hunting their food to eat. 

Like their name, they peck into woods to catch insects and bugs. There are many questions when it comes to information about their food and survival mechanisms.

What do woodpeckers eat? What is woodpeckers’ favorite food?

Woodpeckers are wild and omnivorous birds and are not picky eaters. Their eating habits and diet depend on the availability of food sources and the season prevailing.

Woodpeckers like to feast on nuts, wood-boring beetle larvae, suets, insects, and fruit. Mostly, they use their special physiology to pull out the bugs that infest trees.

They have strong beaks to break and peck through the toughest of shells to reach the seeds inside.

In the Spring,  woodpeckers like to dine mostly on seeds, berries, nuts, and leftover fruits that remain on trees or sturdy bushes. In fall, woodpeckers eat nuts, grains, and seeds from the plentiful harvest.

In the summer, woodpeckers even drink sap and nectar to keep themselves hydrated. 

Woodpeckers feed on insects and bugs during the spring and summer to feed their growing chicks and breeding birds – a high-protein food.

Many species store nuts and other food items during the winter when food sources can become limited. 

Some woodpeckers hide dead insects or beetles under the tree bark or bury them in the soil to get back to when fresh snacks will not be available.

Each species prefers to feast on different food items, some common food that every species of woodpecker family eat includes:


As most insects live in the trunks of trees, woodpeckers use their long, sticky tongues to drill holes into the trunk to capture them. 

With their sultry tongue, woodpeckers can root out the insects from the center of the tree breaks.

Wild birds even eat dried or live mealworms and insect eggs, larvae, spiders, grasshoppers, and ants.


One of their favorite foods is suet, which provides high energy for hatchlings. Woodpeckers can have suet directly from butchers or birders can feed them by buying inexpensive basic suet cage feeders ( mixing nuts, fruits, and even insects with suet).


Shelled or unshelled peanuts provide protein and fats needed for woodpeckers and can be a delicious snack for them. It is better to avoid flavored and salted peanuts, as they can be dangerous and harmful for the woodpeckers’ health.


Like any other birds, woodpeckers love to feast on seeds, especially sunflower seeds either hulled or whole.


Acorn woodpeckers and Red-headed woodpeckers ravish acorns fully and drill holes in trees to store acorns for the cold months coming. 

Acorns constitute nearly half of this species’ annual diet. They feed on acorns more during the winters.


Woodpeckers like to eat apples, grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and any other fruits found in the wild.


Nectar is one of their main food sources. Woodpeckers drink nectar during the summer season to maintain their hydration.


When other food sources are in scarcity, woodpeckers eat the sap in the trees and satisfy their hunger.

There are times when woodpeckers eat meat that was killed by another source but not as their primary diet. Occasionally, they feast on fledgling birds, bird eggs, lizards, or small rodents like mice.

These birds disturb the termites in trees by making hollows in the bark and sucking them out with their tongues.

Woodpeckers are one of the best foragers who are capable of finding their meal in any environment, with the help of their spongy bone skull and beaks.

How do woodpeckers hunt their food?

Woodpeckers use their beaks and skulls to find food inside the woods. Their beak tip is very strong and is powerful enough to dig through any wood to capture their prey. 

Their spongy bone skulls act as a cushion to protect the occurring impact from striking beaks against trees. 

Woodpeckers use their sense of smell to discover the formic acid produced by the bugs. Next, they detect their prey movement beneath the wood, drill holes using their strong beaks and insert their sticky tongue to capture the prey.

Several woodpecker species have been observed riding the other bird’s nest, which contains eggs or hatchlings and immediately killing them to ravish the young. 

Woodpeckers even catch insects in the mid-flight and are vicious in hunting prey like lizards, fledglings, and mice.

What do woodpecker babies eat?

Baby woodpeckers hatch after their eggs have been incubated for two weeks. First 25-30 days, parent birds take care of their babies and feed them. 

Insects are the common food that woodpeckers regurgitate to their young or bring whole insects to them.

Parent birds hunt and regurgitate insects, bugs, or wood-boring insects for their babies and help them grow healthy and strong. 

For up to 30 days, babies depend on their parents for food, after which they are ready to leave their parents independently.

What do woodpeckers eat during winter?

Like other avian species, woodpeckers are not fond of the winter and have difficulty finding food in cold months. 

Some woodpecker species migrate to other parts of the world, but others remain near breeding areas and remain in tree hollows during the winter to stay warm.

Woodpeckers rely on residual fruits, seeds, and nuts throughout colder months. Some species store their food when the food is abundant and use it when they are unable to hunt food. 

The woodpeckers can easily break the seeds that the other birds leave behind, and are known for creating their own stash of food in times of scarcity. 

Acorn woodpeckers store thousands of acorns into their wood hole and survive the winter days.

Do woodpeckers eat other baby birds?

Woodpeckers frequently attack the other birds’ nests and wrench out the hatchlings to dine on. They will eat the young ones near the nesting area or they even carry them into their nest to ravish along with their babies.

Woodpeckers are powerful enough to crack open the skull of other bird chicks with their strong beaks and use their sticky and long tongue to extract the brain and blood of the chicks to eat.

Like other hungry birds, woodpeckers love to feast on fruits, small animals, and other harvesting grains they love to ravish.  

Woodpeckers are not picky eaters and enjoy whatever they hunt, based on the location and the availability of food. 

Woodpeckers do have a high metabolism and body temperature due to which they have to feed and keep themselves hydrated well enough for survival.