How to Attract Pileated Woodpeckers?

How to Attract Pileated Woodpeckers?

Pileated woodpeckers are one of the most captivating and beautiful bird species in the world. But it is mostly found in North America.

They are large, beautiful, and striking birds that are very well known for their unique red crest. They also have black and white plumage on their body.

Furthermore, these woodpeckers are also very famous for their loud and distinctive calls. Likewise, they also have the power or ability to excavate large holes in trees in search of insects.

How to Attract Pileated Woodpeckers?

  • Providing the food pileated woodpeckers love
  • Create a suitable habitat for woodpecker
  • Offering suitable nesting sites
  • Plant Native vegetation for Woodpeckers
  • Providing a water source
  • Make your yard free from predators

Importance of Attracting Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard

Attracting Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard can be very beneficial, but it is a very time-consuming process. It is beneficial because it helps to control pests since they eat insects.

Not only that, but they also add some amount of beauty and excitement with their unique appearance and drumming sounds.

By attracting them, you can create a healthier and more diverse ecosystem in your backyard. It is because they control the population of insects.

Understanding Pileated Woodpeckers

These birds generally prefer mature forests where large trees are present. But they can also be found in smaller woodlots and suburban areas with suitable habitats.

Diet and foraging habits

Pileated Woodpeckers are primarily insectivorous birds. Their diet is predominantly insect-based. These insects include ants, beetles, and termites.

However, they also consume fruits, nuts, and berries. They also occasionally feed on tree sap. Further, these woodpeckers forage by excavating large holes in trees in search of insects. But they sometimes also feed on the ground.

Nesting and breeding behavior

Pileated Woodpeckers typically nest in cavities they excavate in dead or dying trees. But sometimes they also use nest boxes or other artificial structures.

Their breeding season usually begins in late winter or early spring. The females can lay 3–6 eggs per clutch (in a single nesting season). Both parents share incubation and feeding duties.

Creating a Suitable Habitat

Evaluating your backyard for Pileated Woodpecker attraction.

There are many ways to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard. However, it is not easy to attract them because they have unique preferences.

Pileated Woodpeckers prefer areas with mature trees. It will provide suitable nesting sites and foraging opportunities. Similarly, they rely on insects for their diet. Likewise, you can also provide a water source, such as a birdbath or shallow pool. So, assess your backyard according to these steps.

Furthermore, preserve existing tree cavities. You can also consider installing nest boxes designed specifically for woodpeckers. However, attracting Pileated Woodpeckers takes time because they are very selective in their habitat preferences.

Providing appropriate food sources.

Native trees and shrubs for foraging

Pileated Woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, including ants, beetles, and termites. They also eat fruits and nuts, such as acorns and berries. Planting native trees and shrubs that produce these types of food can help attract Pileated Woodpeckers to your backyard.

Some examples of trees and shrubs that can attract Pileated Woodpeckers include oak, hickory, dogwood, and service berry.

Suet and bird feeders

Suet feeders and bird feeders can also be used to attract Pileated Woodpeckers. Fill tube-shaped suet feeders with suet squares, or use a hanging suet feeder with meal worms and nuts. Providing shelled unsalted peanuts and nut mix wild bird food can also attract Pileated Woodpeckers.

Maintaining dead trees and snags.

Pileated Woodpeckers prefer to nest in dead or dying trees, so it’s important to maintain dead trees and snags in your backyard. These trees can also provide foraging opportunities for Pileated Woodpeckers. It is because they often contain insects that the birds feed on.

Offering suitable nesting sites.

Nest boxes

Nest boxes are the best alternative for natural tree cavities. The nest boxes can be used to provide suitable nesting sites for pileated woodpeckers.

However, it must be placed at least 15 feet high on a tree trunk. Also, it should also contain an entrance hole that is approximately 3 inches in diameter.

Natural tree cavities

Natural tree cavities are one of the best places Pileated Woodpeckers choose for nesting. Dead or dying trees are more likely to contain suitable cavities. So, it is crucial to preserve these trees in the backyard.

Landscaping Tips

Planting native vegetation

One of the best ways to attract the Pileated Woodpeckers is to plant native vegetation. It provides natural food sources to them. Some of the best native vegetation that can attract Pileated Woodpeckers are:

  • Oak Trees
  • Hickory Trees
  • Dogwood Trees
  • Serviceberry

Incorporating fruit-bearing plants and berries.

An additional way to attract these woodpeckers is by integrating fruit-bearing plants and berries in the backyard. These birds are known to consume fruits and berries as part of their diet. It includes plants like serviceberries, dogwoods, wild cherries, and elderberries.

Providing a water source.

As mentioned earlier, a good water source such as a birdbath or shallow pool attracts the woodpeckers. It is because they need water for drinking as well as bathing.

Therefore, having a good water source available can make the backyard more attractive to them. Creating brush piles and logs for insect attraction.

Create brush piles and logs in the backyard to attract the pileated woodpecker. Because these structures provide a habitat for insects, and they are a primary food source for these birds. Having a good supply of insects will automatically attract these birds.

Attracting Pileated Woodpeckers with Feeders

Choosing the right bird feeders.

When attracting Pileated Woodpeckers with feeders, it is important to choose the right type of feeder.

Metal mesh bird feeders for nuts: these feeders, often green, can be effective in attracting Pileated Woodpeckers. They provide a suitable platform for offering nuts as food.

Selecting appropriate food options.

To attract Pileated Woodpeckers, it is important to provide them with suitable food options.

  • Suet feeders: It is an excellent way to attract Pileated Woodpeckers to the backyard because it contains rich and fatty suet. These feeders are usually a cage or holder that can be filled with suet. It provides them with essential nutrients and calories.

  • Nuts: Pileated Woodpeckers are also known for consuming nuts. Offering them shelled unsalted peanuts and nut-mixed wild bird food will be beneficial.

These offerings can increase the chances of attracting them to your backyard.

Placement and maintenance of feeders.

The Proper placement and maintenance of feeders can raise the chances of attracting Pileated Woodpeckers.

  • Placement: To attract woodpeckers, place the feeders in such a place that it is clearly visible and easily available for the birds. Placing them near trees or in areas where woodpeckers are commonly seen would be a good idea.

  • Maintenance: The feeder should be cleaned and refilled regularly to make sure that the food is fresh and appealing to the bird. This will also encourage the birds to return.

Common obstacles and how to address them.

Woodpecker damaging the structures: Woodpecker can be very disturbing as it damages and destroys houses or some other structures. In this case, the use of visual deterrents will be very useful. Some examples of this are hanging reflective objects or installing scare balloons.

Attracting unwanted bird species: Many times, while attracting the Woodpeckers, you may also attract other bird species. To prevent this, try changing the type of food you are offering. Likewise, place the feeders in such a way that it makes them less accessible to unwanted birds. Additionally, provide specific food options that are generally preferred by Pileated Woodpeckers. For example, suet and nuts.

Dealing with potential nuisance behavior.

  • Excessive noise: Woodpeckers cause noise issues by drumming on structures. To avoid the noise, use sound deterrents, like recordings of predator or distress calls.
  • Aggressive behavior towards other birds: Pileated Woodpeckers can sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior towards other bird species. To avoid this, you can provide multiple feeding stations. Also, spread out the feeders to reduce competition.


What do pileated woodpeckers eat in the winter?

According to Northern Woodland Magazine, Pileated Woodpecker eats carpenter ants in the winter.

How to find pileated woodpeckers?

The pileated woodpecker is mostly found in the forest of North America.

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