Downy Woodpecker

How to Attract Downy Woodpeckers to Your Yard? (Easy!)

The Downy Woodpecker is a small bird that can be found throughout North America. They are most often spotted in coniferous forests, but they have also been seen in deciduous forests and even urban areas. In this article, we will explore how to attract downy woodpeckers to your yard, with photos, ID, and information about them.


The downy woodpecker has a black body with white bars on its wings and tail feathers. Males have a red patch on their head that becomes brighter during mating season, while females do not have this coloring at all.


The downy woodpecker is the smallest and most common species of woodpecker in North America. It can be found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, with its range extending as far west as New Mexico.

How To Attract Downy Woodpeckers

Provide a Bird Feeder

There are many types of bird feeders that can be used to attract birds. For those who want to get a close look at the downy woodpecker, they should consider purchasing a platform type feeder, hopper feeder, or a suet feeder.

This article will outline what steps one needs to take in order to attract these specific birds and provide them with food so that they come back for more!

1) Find out where the bird’s natural habitat is located. This will determine what type of food to put out.

2) Make sure you have a good location for the feeder and that it is easily accessible by the birds. The key to attracting Downy Woodpeckers is to place the feeder in a spot where it will not be disturbed. Place your bird feeder at least 10 feet away from windows, or places without heavy foot traffic and where there are trees for them to perch on nearby.

3) A Downy Woodpecker will visit your feeder for mealworms, peanuts, cracked corn, corn, sunflower seeds, acorns, hickory nuts, peanut butter on bread, safflower seed mixed with millet, suet pellets, grapes, raisins, crab apples, or apples.

4) They love suet and peanut butter mixed together, and will often come for a meal if you put them in an enclosed bird feeder. If the birds seem uninterested in coming close enough to get the food, try putting some cornmeal or buckwheat on the ground nearby. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they come out of hiding!

​​​​Tip: Thoroughly clean your bird feeders at least weekly with hot soapy water or using bird bath cleaning solution. Remove food from tray to avoid attracting wild animals.​​​​​​​

downy woodpecker feeding on suet
Image by Richard Emerson from Pixabay

Provide a Birdbath

What attracts Downy Woodpeckers? One of the main things that these tiny birds are attracted to is a high-quality water source for drinking and bathing. And what better way to create an inviting watering hole than with a birdbath!

1) Get a birdbath that is stable, high quality and resists the elements like this birdbath on Amazon.

2) Choose an appropriate spot for the birdbath in an area with plenty of sunlight and trees nearby.

3) Add some large rocks or stones on the bottom of the birdbath to add some texture and interest.

4) Fill the birdbath with fresh water at least twice a week.

5) Hang a bird feeder near the birdbath.

6) Put out some suet in the wintertime to attract Downy Woodpeckers.

Tip: Change and add clean water daily to avoid attracting insects, disease-carrying insects, and unsavory bacteria that can leach chemicals into the water.

Provide Shelter

1) Providing shelter is essential to enticing woodpeckers, choose suitable sites such as small or large hollow trees with adequate spacing for nesting, feeding, and roosting. Other types of trees, such as jack pine, oak, hickory, walnut, pecan, beech, and pine, are also good options.

2) Woodpeckers need their own space to roost and forage. Two to three feet of space is generally sufficient. Provide lots of branches with holes, gaps, or bark-covered vertical surfaces around the house. Any type of tree is fine as long as it has a suitable root system to provide good support and a space to stand on.

3) Be aware that tree cavities and other place where trees split open are not suitable. Supply the birds with plenty of dead wood, twigs, and branches, which they will use to construct the nest.

Provide a Nest box

If you want to attract this species of woodpecker to your backyard, it’s best to create an artificial nest box for them. This will provide shelter and warmth in the winter months when they’re not nesting in natural tree cavities. ​​​​​​​

1) Nest boxes provide a great opportunity to attract Downy Woodpeckers. The nest box should be made from rough materials such as cedar or pine boards, in order to create natural crevices for nesting material that Downy Woodpeckers like to line their nests with, like leaves, moss, feathers, and other soft material in the bottom of the box.

I recommend using a quality made nesting box, you can get one on Amazon for a pretty good deal. You can see it here.

downy woodpecker on tree
Photo by Steve Adams on Unsplash

Plant Trees & Shrubs

The Downy Woodpecker is a bird that prefers to live in areas with trees and shrubs. Add a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and other habitat plants that the birds will need to get the energy they need to survive.

They are especially attracted to conifers, which have large needles for them to eat from. They also enjoy eating insects like ants or spiders from trees which is why they are often found in backyards where there is a lot of greenery to feed on. 

Woodpeckers are also attracted by the presence of dead trees in your backyard so if you have any old or dying trees on your property then make sure to leave them standing.

Some of the most popular species of coniferous trees that attract these birds:

  • Oak 
  • Birch 
  • Spruce
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Hemlock
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Black Gum
  • Dead Trees

Some of the most popular fruit trees and shrubs that attract these birds:

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Peaches
  • Black Cherry
  • Crab Apple
  • Choke berry
  • Service Berry
  • Mulberry
  • Holly
  • Virginia Creeper
  • Wild Grape

Plant Flowers

To make your yard more inviting to these colorful birds, try planting flowers that they will like. Birds generally prefer native plants with a lot of nectar-producing blooms such as the ones below.

  • Sunflower
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Petunias
  • Roses
  • Tulips
  • Honeysuckle
  • Coneflowers
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnias
  • Phloxes
  • Hollyhocks
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Milkweed
  • Cardinal flower
  • Trumpet vine 
  • Bee Balm
  • Goldenrod
  • Jewelweed
  • New England Aster


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.