Attracting Woodpeckers to Your Yard
The active little Downy Woodpecker is a familiar sight at backyard feeders and in parks and woodlots, where it joins flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely outsizing them. This black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls, seed balls, and suet feeders. Downies and their larger lookalike, the Hairy Woodpecker, are one of the first identification challenges that beginning bird watchers master.
Downy Woodpeckers eat mainly insects, including beetle larvae that live inside wood or tree bark as well as ants and caterpillars. They eat pest insects including corn earworm, tent caterpillars, bark beetles, and apple borers. About a quarter of their diet consists of plant material, particularly berries, acorns, and grains.
Downy Woodpeckers are the most likely woodpecker species to visit a backyard bird feeder. They prefer suet feeders, but are also fond of black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts, and chunky peanut butter. Occasionally, Downy woodpeckers will drink from oriole and hummingbird feeders as well.