These are many species of Woodpeckers, and the commonest in our area is the Downy Woodpecker. As a group, they are known for the strong bill, which is sharply pointed for chipping and digging into tree trunks or branches (the bird is looking for wood-boring insects.) You may often hear them “drumming” on limbs or poles.
These are attractive, active birds with bold markings and are a joy to watch, year-round!
Downy Woodpeckers eat a variety of food and search for insects, nuts and berries in the wild. They also enjoy suet, peanuts, peanut butter, mealworms and black oil sunflower seeds, which humans can provide! They are often shy birds, so putting a feeder and water in a quiet part of the yard, preferably near mature trees, will make them feel more comfortable.
If you’re using suet cakes – and they do love suet! – check freshness regularly. If necessary, cut into smaller pieces or offer smaller cakes in birdseed blocks or stacks. The cakes with sunflower seeds in them are gobbled right up.
Clean, Fresh Water:
Downy Woodpeckers will visit birdbaths, but they prefer more isolated baths in shady quiet areas. A ground bird bath with a dripper or moving water source will attract their attention. If there are perches nearby they can become used to the bath. And yes, they do need heated baths in winter.
Safe, Secure Shelter (and Nesting Sites):
Downy Woodpeckers prefer the shelter of small wooded areas of mature trees, with scrubby shrubs around the base (those that produce berries are even better!)
They nest in cavities and appreciate a nice birdhouse, mounted about 10-20 feet high, with an appropriately-sized entrance hole.
It may take a little patience to entice these little winged wonders to visit your yard, but it’s worth it!