It is truly a challenge to attract a pileated woodpecker to a feeder. I have been feeding birds for more than a half a century and have never fed a morsel of food to a pileated woodpecker. However, pileated woodpeckers do visit backyard bird feeders. According to data collected in Project FeederWatch, less than a quarter of the people that feed birds in the Southeast host pileated woodpeckers.
Personally, I can count on one hand the number of people that have told me they have been able to attract our largest woodpecker to their feeders. However, several years ago Leon and Julie Neel told me that pileated woodpeckers visited a homemade suet feeder outside their home near Thomasville. This feeder was truly unique and beautiful. The feeder was a large cypress knee. Suet was packed into a number of large holes drilled around the knee. This feeder was both functional and beautiful.
If you want to meet the challenge of trying to attract a pileated woodpecker to your feeders, there are a few facts you need to know. First,
The pileated woodpecker was not considered a feeder bird until the 1950s. Since that time, pileated woodpeckers have visited feeders more frequently.
If a pileated woodpecker begins visiting your feeder, it will typically be extremely cautious. However, its trepidation will somewhat diminish with time.
Initially, only one bird will visit a feeder. However, don’t be surprised if the bird’s mate visits later. The reason for this is the members of a pair of pileated woodpeckers maintain a bond with one another throughout the entire year. In addition, they occupy the same territory throughout all seasons. However, they are more tolerant of other pileated woodpeckers that might enter their territory during the winter.
The best food to use to attract pileated woodpeckers is suet. You can use either plain or peanut butter suet.
Suet should be offered in a large feeder. Large feeders attached to the trunk of a tree work well. Suet can also be smeared into the bark of a tree. Some folks have been successful in attracting the birds to large log suet feeders suspended on poles. Others smear a layer of suet between two slabs of wood, which are attached to a tree.
If you are going to try to meet the pileated woodpecker challenge this winter, go into it with realistic expectations. Chances are you will not be successful. However, if are patient, you just may be rewarded with the rare opportunity of being able to see pileated woodpeckers on a regular basis.