How you can attract woodpeckers to your garden

How you can attract woodpeckers to your garden

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As a bird lover, you'll no doubt find it as difficult to choose a favourite British species as we do - they all seem to have their own unique personalities and quirks that make them a delight to watch.

Having said that, seeing a woodpecker is a surefire way to give anyone's day a boost. They are colourful and attractive birds, while watching them feed and forage is hugely entertaining. They're also easier to spot than you might imagine; you just need to know what you're looking for and follow some simple tips on how to make your garden a haven for them.

Types of British woodpecker

There are only three species of woodpecker in Britain: the Great Spotted Woodpecker; the Green Woodpecker; and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

This species is bright black and white and roughly the size of a blackbird. Males will have a red crown, making for a bright splash of colour. It's quite shy and will try to hide from onlookers and potential predators by hurrying around to the opposite side of tree trunks. You might hear it before you see it, as it has a loud call and will drum clearly, especially in the spring.

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpeckers are large and, as the name suggests, distinctively green on their wings and back, although this fades to a paler yellow underneath. The birds also have red heads. Again, this type of woodpecker has a loud call, which sounds almost like a laugh, but they're more likely to be spotted on the ground in parks and woodlands, as they eat ants.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

This is likely to be the most difficult woodpecker to spot, as it is the least common and also the smallest. It is a similar colour as the Great Spotted Woodpecker, but not quite as bright. Listen carefully in wooded areas though, as you might hear its quiet tapping and then spot it quietly moving from branch to branch. Unfortunately, people in the northern parts of the UK are less likely to find this woodpecker, as it is mostly limited to the south and in particular the south-east of England.

Top tips to attract woodpeckers 

Like most birds, woodpeckers simply need a reliable food source, water and sufficient shelter for safety and nesting, so you should be able to implement a few measures to boost your chances of spotting them and ensuring they keep coming back all year round.

Gardens with trees are most likely to attract woodpeckers. If you haven't got them already, you may have to be patient and plant some established trees in quite close proximity to each other to emulate woodland, then encourage them to grow nice and tall. Add some shrubs underneath for maximum protection too. If you already have trees, that's obviously even better.

In terms of feeding, the Great Spotted Woodpecker and the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker both favour to eat in an upright position. You can supplement their usual diet of grubs and insects with an energy-rich specialist product such as our Peanut Cake Squares, which will need to be placed in a feeder that they can cling to.

Because woodpeckers are quite shy, you may get the best results if you position their feeders away from those frequented by other garden birds. Boisterous songbirds are likely to frighten them away, so keeping them both happy is a good solution.

Similarly, isolated bird baths for water are likely to be favoured by woodpeckers, so perhaps invest in a second one and place it in a nice quiet corner of your garden.

Finally, encourage nesting by looking for a cavity in an older tree and placing a specially designed woodpecker box on the most sheltered side, high enough to be out of reach of predators.

Lining a natural-looking nest with soil and perhaps a few chips of bark from the tree could be an extra invitation to nest.

It could take time and a little patience, but following this advice and getting hold of our specialist woodpecker products could be enough to make your garden somewhere woodpeckers just love to visit time and time again.