For most of us, the downy woodpecker is the most common woodpecker that visits our feeder. This tiny woodpecker is only about the size of a house sparrow (6 1/2 – 6 3/4″ long). Indeed, it is so small that it holds the title of being the smallest woodpecker in North America. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up with being one of the most energetic birds to grace our backyards. It seems to always foraging for food.
If you would see downy woodpeckers more often at your feeders this winter, here is a list of some of their favorite feeder foods.
While the downy woodpecker will eat plant material, it primarily feeds on animals such as both adult and immature insects. As such, one of the first foods should offer at your feeder is suet. As we all know this insect substitute is made from animal fat.
Unfortunately, the very best suet is hard to come by. This suet is suet rendered from the hard, opaque fat that surrounds beef kidneys. The very best way to obtain this suet is to buy it directly from a butcher. Sadly, most of us do not know a butcher.
This means that we have to buy suet cakes. These cakes are made from animal fats. These fats are soft and can come from anywhere on an animal carcass. Whereas beef suet does not melt when the temperatures rises, suet cakes typically do. Fortunately, for us, downy woodpeckers will eat suet cakes.
Downy woodpeckers are also fond of sunflower seeds. For reasons that I cannot explain, downy woodpeckers seem to eat sunflower seeds more often in some locales than others. In my neck of the woods, they seem prefer suet and whole, peanuts to sunflower seeds.
Hulled peanuts are a great downy woodpecker food, however, sometimes hard to come by. However, if a store that specializes in birding-related items is located nearby, you are in luck. The peanuts are best offered to the birds in special cylindrical whole peanut feeders.
Downy woodpeckers are also known to eat cracked corn as well as a wide variety of dairy products and baked goods. The list of these foods includes doughnuts, American cheese, coconut, and bread.
If downy woodpeckers eat other food items at your feeders, please let me know.