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What Do Woodpeckers Eat?

Category: Birds.

Many woodpeckers will stay in the same area during the summer months as well as during winter, but will alter their diets to make it easier to find food to eat, similar to robins if you are at all familiar with their food pattern.

A male acorn woodpecker clinging to a tree full of hoarded acorns, which is their primary source of food. © Johnath.

Woodpeckers can alter their diets

They alter their diets for two reasons, one reason is that by altering their diets, the woodpeckers are still able to meet their nutritional needs so that they survive the long winter months ahead. Secondly, the woodpecker alters its diet so that the food that they need is easier to find, obviously. It happens the same way with most animals or at least with birds that don’t choose to migrate as soon as the warm seasons are over. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that they require an adaptive digestive system that will be comfortable with all sorts of food, not only the usual mix of nuts and berries, that can easily nourish any small bird during the summer.

Bird feeders

A woodpecker is the type of bird that does depend on the bird feeders that people put out in the back yard, for most of the wintertime anyway. During winter, it’s important for their survival that people put out all sorts of food for them, the good news is that even in the absence of these feeders, they will find foods to scape by on. The sad part is that when this happens, the woodpecker population shortens in a rather large amount precisely because some of them will just lack the necessary amount of food to survive. The pecking or drumming that a human sees when they are watching the woodpecker is actually to dislodge an insect from a tree. We must remember that a woodpecker also uses the pecking or drumming noise as a way to communicate with other woodpeckers, to advertise a territory, or to attract a mate to the tree.

What do they eat in the wild?

A red-bellied woodpecker eating an apple. © GalgenTX.

There are many different things that a woodpecker will eat depending on what season of the year it is. Here are a few things that the woodpecker loves to eat; insects that are burying into the wood like grubs, ants, spiders, caterpillars, termites, tree sap, nuts, seed, berries, and fruits. Woodpeckers especially love to eat blueberries, mulberries, elderberries, strawberries, and holly. The most popular food that a woodpecker can find in a bird feeder are nuts, insect, acorns, pine seeds, cracked corn, fruits especially oranges, grapes, cherries, and apples, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, mealworms, and nectar. Mealworms are the larvae of a plain black beetle. Tree sap is an important part of a woodpecker’s diet during the summer months when there is not a lot of food available for the woodpecker to eat.

Their diet changes with the weather

In the spring and summer time, woodpeckers will eat mostly on insects that provide high amounts of protein for the reason of breeding birds and growing hatchlings. In the fall, their diets usually consist of nuts, seeds, and fruits because of their plentiful natural harvest around this time of the year. In the winter months, the woodpecker’s diet changes again to nuts and seeds, which are abundant at this time of the year.


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