Do Woodpeckers Attack Other Birds?

There are 3 species of woodpecker native to the UK, the greater spotted, the lesser spotted and the green woodpecker.

In recent years it is quite commonplace to see them in gardens as they continue their hunt for suitable nesting sites and tasty insects and grubs.

If you have ever seen them vociferously pecking away at your nesting boxes, you might wonder if they’re being violent. I decided to research ‘do woodpeckers attack other birds’ or are they just misunderstood?

Woodpeckers peck for multiple reasons. Mostly they use their incredibly strong beaks to hollow out cavities in tree trunks to make their nests but sometimes they are making the famous drumming noise to attract the attention of a prospective mate.

As with many garden birds, the noise is a way of staking their claim on their territory and warning others to stay away.

The most sinister reason that the woodpecker pecks is to breach the entrance of a bird box and to attack other birds.

Woodpeckers are foragers, they don’t hunt and kill other birds for food. That isn’t to say that they won’t eat adult birds if they found their carcass, they just don’t directly attack them.

Baby birds are different. The woodpecker sees hatchlings as a succulent and nutritious addition to their diet.

As soon as they spot adults bird leave the nest they will attempt to remove any eggs and chicks. If the bird box has a narrow entrance hole, the woodpecker will drill with his beak until he makes it large enough to gain access.

Sometimes they steal the eggs and move them to their nest, other times they eat them where they are.

Do woodpeckers attack baby birds

You can hardly call it an attack, baby birds are defenceless and unaware of what is about to happen. They are particularly fond of members of the tit family, marsh and willow tits are favourites.

Sadly, the woodpecker takes the hatchlings to eat. They often use their beak to drill into the hatchling’s skull and use their long, narrow, sticky tongue to scoop out the fleshy brain matter. 

How to stop woodpeckers attacking birds in your garden

They are quite reclusive birds that spend the majority of their time in trees. They prefer their own company and will avoid the noise and activity of humans and other birds.

If they have a plentiful food source beneath the area that they have made their nest, as long as your bird boxes and feeders are in a different area of the garden, other birds should be safe.

  • Consider planting a fruit bush beneath the tree whee the woodpeckers live
  • Put suet and peanut butter onto platform feeders near to their nest, they prefer to perch as they eat.
  • Sugary water is a treat for them, give them their supply to repel them from using the water for the other birds.
  • Grow and oak or pine tree! Okay, this is easier said than done, but they are the favourite of the woodpecker and will attract them.

Hopefully, the deterrents in place will ensure the woodpecker stays to his area of the garden and not cause any bother to your songbird visitors.

Breeding season

During early spring is the time when the woodpeckers become more active. You need to decide whether to woodpecker proof the garden or make the habitat a safer place for the small garden birds.

Wrapping bird boxes in mesh makes it virtually impossible for the woodpecker to get in.

Purpose-designed metal plates are cheaply available to screw around the entrance to the bird boxes. This makes it impossible for any of the larger birds including jays, magpies, and woodpeckers to bore the hole any larger.

Final thoughts…

Woodpeckers are a wonderful visitor to any garden, I haven’t been lucky enough to have any nest in mine.

If you happen to have woodpeckers in your garden you can rest fairly safe knowing that the answer to do woodpeckers attack other birds, is no, not adult birds.

However, all species of woodpecker enjoy eggs and hatchlings, so it is worth trying to keep them away from nesting boxes, particularly during early spring.

5 thoughts on “Do Woodpeckers Attack Other Birds?”

  1. I can assure you they do attack adult birds! Just seen a lesser spotted holding down and killing an adult house sparrow before moving onto the chicks in the box!

  2. A woodpecker stabbing a sparrow on the ground . Until the sparrow was dead. Pulling out pieces of it’s stomach?.

  3. Yesterday morning a woodpecker got into my great tit box. Killed all the young. I removed the rest which were dead. This morning it got into my blue tit box and killed the young and carried them off. They have devastated my other boxes by knocking holes in the side of the boxes and knocking out a side panel. They are killers especially young chicks. Hate them.


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