Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Irresistible! Attract Hairy Woodpecker to Your Feeder

Hairy Woodpeckers are larger versions of the common and familiar Downy Woodpeckers.

They also come to bird feeders. 

However, they live in woods and forests with large-diameter trees. In the East these can be both deciduous and conifer woods. In the West, Hairy Woodpeckers are more regular in mature conifer forests.

These birds are found across the United States, though quite local and rare in Florida and Texas.

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

Why attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your bird feeder?

At your feeders, Hairy Woodpeckers are often solitary or in small family groups. They don't eat much. They are not overly aggressive against other birds. They get along with other birds.

Hairy Woodpeckers are not often seen at feeders. When they do show up, they are always welcome. Why? They are beautiful and fascinating birds. They have striking black and white plumage.

Once they find your feeders they will keep returning. They aren't migratory, so will eat at your feeders throughout the year. However, they are most likely to show up in winter when other foods are hard to find.

As an added benefit, they can help control pests in your garden by eating insects that damage your plants.

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

What foods will attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your feeder?

Hairy Woodpeckers are especially attracted to suet at your feeders. They may like those with added nuts, insects, or berries.

They may be attracted to your feeders if you offer berries or fruit, including oranges, grapes, and apples.

They will eat sunflower seeds also, either whole black oil sunflower seeds or sunflower chips.

They will eat nuts, peanut hearts, and chunky peanut butter.

The best mixed bird seed that I have found is Wagner's Songbird Supreme (Amazon affiliate link). It is 50% sunflower seeds and doesn't have any cheap filler seed that birds won't eat. This seed attracts the largest variety of birds to your feeder. Hair Woodpeckers will eat the sunflower seeds but leave the smaller seeds for sparrows and other birds.

For my home feeders, I always purchase St Albans Bay Suet blocks (Amazon affiliate link). It comes in several flavors, including peanut and berry. They fit in required special suet cages, which are a type of bird feeder. 

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

What kind of feeders do Hairy Woodpeckers like?

Because these woodpeckers are larger than many of the other feeder birds, they need larger feeders. 

They will do well with platform feeders or larger hopper feeders.

To have the best chance to attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your feeder, purchase a suet feeder or cage. There are a couple of different types.

I bought a Nature's Way Upside-down suet feeder (Amazon affiliate link) a couple years ago and have been very happy with it. Chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits, and woodpeckers eat from it easily. But starlings, blackbirds, and jays can't hang upside down to get at the suet.

I created this video on Hairy Woodpeckers to accompany this video. Check it out!

Where to place your bird feeder for Hairy Woodpeckers

Hairy Woodpeckers are more wary than Downy Woodpeckers. Thus, they'll be more likely to visit and remain at your feeders if they are not too close to your house.

Don't put a feeder for Hairy Woodpeckers too close to your picture windows where they can see you inside.

Likewise, they may like a suet feeder a bit away from the seed feeder and all its rowdy sparrows and finches.

Since they like large-diameter trees, place your feeder near one of these, if you have them. If you don't have any big trees in your yard or nearby, it will be really hard to attract this species.

Hairy Woodpeckers will approach the feeder by hopping around the trunk. Likewise, if the bird gets frightened, it will fly up into the big tree.

Photo of Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

How else can you attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your yard?

The biggest attractor for Hairy Woodpeckers is large trees on the order of 80 years old or more. Obviously, that's not something you can plant today and have any immediate results.

Hairy Woodpeckers have been known to drink sap from sapsucker wells. These wells are often in smaller trees, including fruit trees. So, if you have any of these birds, keep an eye out for this visitor.

Most birds are attracted to water. Bird baths provide water for drinking and bathing. It seems that Hairy Woodpeckers aren't as attracted to bird baths as other woodpeckers. But I've seen at least one photo showing them on a bird bath. Birds are even more attracted to moving water. If you can provide a fountain or waterfall, that would have the best chance to attract birds to water.

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Photo of Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

Problems with Hairy Woodpeckers: If you have attracted too many to your feeder

Sometimes woodpeckers can drum on your home or even drill into it. That's not usually the case with Hairy Woodpeckers.

If you don't want woodpeckers at your feeders, including Hairy Woodpeckers, don't feed suet.

Also, you may want to switch to a tube feeder. Woodpeckers have a harder time hanging from the small perches and reaching into the feeding port.

I really love the way my iBorn tube feeder (Amazon affiliate link) looks, with its copper top.  A screwdriver takes off the lower perch and opens it up for cleaning. This feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds attracts all types of finches, chickadees, and nuthatches. The smaller perches and lack of tray mean that you'll have fewer House Sparrows, Starlings, Doves, and Jays at this feeder.

Hairy Woodpecker FAQ

Ask questions in the comments below about attracting and feeding Hairy Woodpeckers and I'll add the answer here!


Why aren't birds coming to your feeder?

First in series: Irresistible! Attract Mourning Doves to your feeder

Next in series: Irresistible! Attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your feeder

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