What Woodpeckers Eat
The woodpecker’s main diet is insects that are heard from under the bark of the tree. They will drill a hole and then use their awfully long tongue for pulling the insects out. The tongue is sticky at the end which is helpful in grasping the insect from the center of the tree. You can think of the woodpecker as a tree doctor removing the insects that could potentially do harm to the tree (that’s how I think of them)!!
Most woodpeckers have a Zygodactyl foot pattern that allow them an extra grip (along with the use of their stuff tail feathers) for climb up the side of a tree in search of these insects. The Pileated Woodpecker can be commonly found drilling a large oblong hole in the side of the tree, searching for a colony of Carpenter Ants. Below is a minute long video showing how the Pileated Woodpecker is able to extract these large holes.
Insects are not the only diet of the woodpecker . . . . they will also enjoy fruit, berries and other seeds that are found around the forest. Just last weekend I photographed this Downy Woodpecker feeding on some Sumac seeds (I just love the sumac fluff around its bill).
Last spring I witnessed a Red-headed Woodpecker at Presque Isle State Park (PA) take this acorn and lodge it in multiple locations so that it could easily chip the meat from the middle of the acorn. Other woodpeckers (like the Acorn Woodpecker) have been known to drill perfectly sized holes for storing their acorns in the bark of the tree. They can easily store tens of thousands of acorns in a single tree (isn’t that crazy?)!!
Sapsuckers get their names by drilling rows of evenly spaced holes in a tree. They drill through the bark and cambium layer in an oval shape in specific tree species. When the sap wells are flowing they drip with watery sap that attracts many species of insects to these wells. Once they wells heal over, the sapsuckers will then redrill the same wells year after year. A large part of the sapsuckers diet is ants but they also actively drink the sap as it flows from its wound. I have seen many other critters like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red Squirrel and other warblers using these wells for food.
Placement of suet cakes is the best way to encourage woodpeckers to regularly visit your back yard. There are many suet mixtures out on the market today like “berry”, “fruit”, and even “insect” cakes. Long before bird food became a billion dollar industry, birdwatchers used raw beef fat from around the kidneys and loins. I prefer making my own suet using the standard peanut-butter mix (now days known as zick dough). You wouldn’t expect suet to be naturally found in the wild but just last December my nose located a deer carcass. Within a short period we saw a Downy Woodpecker pair making use of the frozen meat that was lying on the ground. This natural fat must be extremely helpful in making it through the winter months.
Once you understand the diets of the woodpeckers . . . you can then easily locate the woodpeckers moving through the forest or when visiting in your back yard. Don’t be afraid to watch the woodpeckers in your yard . . . you would be amazed at what you will find them doing or where they will find their next food source.
|Subscribe to Mon@rch||All Rights Reserved ©2006-2009|