Are Woodpeckers Omnivores? Truth Revealed

Several species of birds, including crows, robins, cranes, and ducks, are omnivores, but what about woodpeckers? Are woodpeckers omnivores?

Woodpeckers come from the Picidae family and spend most of their lives searching for insects in tree trunks.

While they peck on tree bark to make their habitat or pull out insects or bugs to eat, their diet varies from species to species.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

Many ornithologists and naturalists have confirmed that woodpeckers are omnivores. They can eat anything from insects, peanuts, nectar, and even beetles.

In this article, we will discuss woodpeckers, what they eat, how their eating habits affect their ecosystem, and more.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores?

As mentioned above, yes, woodpeckers feed on both plants and animals.

However, it depends on which species of woodpeckers we are talking about since each has its own preference (more on this in the next section).

One reason why woodpeckers are usually omnivores is that some of them aren’t migratory birds. Since they stay in the wild most of the year, they get used to easily available food sources.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

What Are the Food Sources of Woodpeckers?

You should know that woodpeckers have an extraordinary sense of smell, long and strong bills, and sticky tongues. This makes them powerful hunters.

What food woodpeckers eat depends on the species. For example,

ivory-billed woodpeckers from North America are omnivores, whereas pileated woodpeckers, who also hail from North America, are carnivores

Downy woodpeckers are herbivores by nature and prefer to eat plants. Rufous woodpeckers have an ant-only diet! Here are some of the common foods that most woodpeckers eat.

Insects and bugs

Most insects and bugs live in trees or wood, which is why woodpeckers peck on tree trunks.

Woodpeckers enjoy eating insects, including ants, grubs, beetles, insect larvae, and caterpillars.

Woodpeckers drill trees to create holes in them and use their sticky tongues to extract the insects into their mouth.

Insects make for a high-protein diet that woodpeckers need, especially during the breeding season.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

Tree sap

During the spring season, tree trunks do not have a lot of insects or bugs, and woodpeckers get their protein from tree saps instead.

However, some species of woodpeckers, including red-naped sapsuckers and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, rely on tree saps throughout the year.

Nuts and fruits

Many woodpecker species enjoy eating fruits like apples, grapes, cherries, blackberries, oranges, blueberries, etc.

These birds occasionally enjoy fruit jelly of different flavors if bird lovers offer it to them.

Many also devour nuts and seeds of fruits, especially during the fall season. During fall, neither insects are available nor are the sap sweet enough for them.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are a perfect example of birds that love eating nuts, fruits, and seeds.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

Other food sources

Apart from the above food sources, most woodpeckers eat peanut butter, black oil, sunflower seeds, nectar, suet, etc.

Some woodpecker species, such as the red-headed woodpeckers, also eat other birds’ eggs.

How is Their Diet Good for their Ecosystem?

Woodpeckers play an important part in keeping trees healthy and are ecologically important for the environment.

They extract grubs and wood-eating insects from the trees; woodpeckers work like pest control and keep the trees healthy.

One thing you should also know about woodpeckers is that while they peck on tree bark most of their lives, they do not damage the trees themselves. They prefer to make their nest cavities in dead trees instead.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

How Can You Get Them to Come to Your Yard?

Due to the increasing deforestation and increasing human population, woodpeckers and other birds and animals are on the verge of losing many of their natural habitats.

While woodpeckers prefer to live in wooded areas, here are some ways you can attract them to your yard


The first step to attracting a woodpecker into your yard is to get an appropriate bird feeder. Ensure that it is anchored well and has a tail prop panel.

Some birders prefer a suet feeder, but any feeder would work if it has a considerably large hole that is at least four inches wide in diameter.

Food options

Since woodpeckers are omnivores, you can choose from a variety of food to attract them. Peanut butter, sunflower seeds, fruits, fruit jelly, mealworms, seeds, nectar, etc., would all work well.

Many woodpeckers also like sipping nectar from humming birds’ feeders. If you have bird feeders set up for hummingbirds, they might attract woodpeckers too.

Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

Frequently asked questions

Do woodpeckers eat meat?

It depends on the species of woodpeckers. Most of them prefer insects over seeds or nuts. Red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers even eat chicks of other birds, especially if they don’t find any other food source.

Do woodpeckers ever break their beaks?

Woodpeckers have strong breaks, so it is highly unlikely they will break. However, their beaks suffer from wear and tear due to the constant drilling and can occasionally crack. However, their beaks have evolved to replenish themselves with time.

Can woodpeckers wrap their tongues around their brains?

Yes, woodpeckers’ tongues are so long that they can wrap them around their brains. They do it as well – the tongue keeps their brain safe from getting injured when they are pecking at high-speed.

Are all birds omnivores?

Most birds are omnivores. They rely on insects, bugs, worms, plants, reptiles, nuts, fruits, etc., for survival. However, raptor birds such as hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls are pure carnivores and eat mice, rodents, snakes, meat, or even fish as their main diet.
Are Woodpeckers Omnivores

Wrap Up

We hope that this article answers your question regarding woodpeckers being omnivores. While there are more than 200 species of woodpeckers, and one cannot make a blanket statement, most of them are omnivores.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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