It is not hard to guess where the woodpecker’s name originated. These birds drill holes into trees in search of food or to form nests. Some of their favorite foods are insects, specifically carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae, but they will also eat different types of fruits, nuts, and berries, and can be attracted with suet patties. There are a variety of woodpeckers native to Wisconsin, but two of the most common are the pileated and the downy.
Pileated woodpeckers create distinct, large, rectangular shaped holes in trees while searching for food. These holes are commonly found in trees that have ant colonies living within. They are able to reach into crevices with their long tongue to lap up their favorite food, ants. While they typically stick to the trees, it is not unusual to see them foraging on the ground, especially around dead trees. Pileated woodpeckers are particularly fond of carpenter ants. The males form holes in dead trees to help attract a mate, and that hole will eventually become the mating pair’s nest.
Downy woodpeckers are much smaller than the pileated, and, unlike most other woodpeckers, its bill is actually shorter than its head. These small birds, the smallest species of woodpecker in North America, can often be found around backyard feeders where they will feed on suet patties and nuts. Northern flickers are another commonly found species of woodpecker in Wisconsin, and can be distinguished by their yellow tail feathers and that they can often be found foraging for on the ground, rather than in trees.
Their popularity with backyard bird-watchers can lead to problems, and they have been known to drill holes into wood siding to form nests or mark territory. Woodpeckers can be very difficult to control and can cause serious damage to your home if left unmonitored. Woodpeckers are protected in Wisconsin, but we do have several different options to discourage them from pecking your home, including installing deterrents to help scare them away.