Do woodpeckers use bird houses to nest in? Which ones are best?

A woodpecker birdhouse is a great way to deter woodpeckers from drilling holes in your house and ruining desirable trees, whilst providing an excellent place for them to nest.

Woodpecker bird houses

Do woodpeckers use bird houses? Yes, a woodpecker bird house provides a valuable home for many different types of woodpecker. They offer birdwatchers a viewpoint to study these wonderful birds close up and act as an effective means of preventing woodpeckers from destroying your house.

Whilst some birds favor tree branches, shrubs, gutters and roofs as the perfect places to build a nest, woodpeckers prefer to create cavities in which to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, by drilling these holes, they can cause significant structural damage to your property or backyard.

But, by placing a woodpecker birdhouse on a nearby tree, you can encourage woodpeckers to make their home in a readymade nest box instead.

Why attract woodpeckers to your backyard?

It is important that if you spot woodpeckers frequenting your backyard that you take steps to discourage them from drumming. However, you don’t want to dissuade them from visiting altogether, as woodpeckers can be fantastic birds to have around.

By continuing to meet the basic needs of a woodpecker elsewhere in your backyard (through woodpecker nests and feeders), will not only help to keep these birds flying around but will minimize any unwanted behaviour.

Woodpeckers particular like to live in a house with a roof above their head, so by placing a woodpecker nest in your yard you could attract many different species including:

  • Downy woodpecker
  • Gila woodpecker
  • Golden fronted woodpecker
  • Ladder backed woodpecker
  • Nuttalls woodpecker
  • Hairy woodpecker
  • Lewis’s woodpecker
  • Acorn woodpecker
  • Black backed three toed woodpecker
  • Northern flicker
  • Eastern flicker
  • Western flicker
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-headed woodpecker
  • Red Cocked woodpecker
  • Red-breasted sapsucker
  • Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Woodpeckers are vibrant birds, not only in color but in personality, making them fun to watch and learn about. And, because they don’t tend to fly far from home, you are likely to see the same birds year after year.

As an added bonus, alongside the usual acorns, nuts and seeds; woodpeckers predominately eat insects, so will happily snack on any nuisance bugs.

best woodpecker bird houses

What to look for in a woodpecker bird house?

If you are looking to install a woodpecker house in your backyard, then you need to make sure that it has the right sized hole. Too large and it might encourage predator birds to enter and takeover the nest, whilst too small and it may deter woodpeckers altogether.

A woodpecker house should always be made of wood. Not only does this make it durable for all weathers but ensures that these birds do not get too hot in summer. Metal and plastic can cause birds harm as they absorb the heat.

Although bright colors may look pretty when placed in your backyard, they are likely to put off woodpeckers from nesting. Birds avoid unnatural looking objects as it makes them standout to potential predators. Therefore, you should stick to natural wood for your woodpecker house.

Finally, pick a woodpecker house that protects them from natural predators such as racoons, squirrels and snakes. Often added extras such as perches are not only an unnecessary item but provide a foothold for unwanted visitors.

What are the best woodpecker bird houses?

Woodpecker bird houses come in all shapes and sizes, and it is often difficult to know which one is best. Below we review our top three recommendations, which are all available to buy on Amazon.

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1. Best budget woodpecker house

The Mark Downy sturdy woodpecker bird house is made of red cedar wood, which is not only durable but a preferred pecking material for all small species – namely the common Downy Woodpecker. It is basic in design but simple to put up and has adequate drainage and ventilation openings for a comfortable living environment.

It does come with a packet of wood shavings; however, most woodpeckers prefer to choose their own nesting materials so we would advise against using these.

[amazon box="B0006TWG3E"]

2. Best woodpecker house for protecting against predators

The Coveside Mounted is another bird house which is most suited to the Downy Woodpecker, due to the size of the hole and nesting area. It is handcrafted in America and made of pine, which provides excellent durability and insulation all year round.

The slate predator guard is highly effective in keeping out larger animals such as squirrels who are unable to chew through the tough material.

[amazon box="B0006TWG3O"]

3. Best for attracting larger species of woodpeckers

Due to a decline in their natural habitat, certain species such as the red-bellied woodpecker are decreasing in numbers all the time. This lovely woodpecker house is specifically designed with a larger hole to entice hairy, red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers to reside.

Although slightly more expensive than the other woodpecker houses, it is incredibly robust. Made of pine it has beautiful attention to detail with rough sawn panels on the inside to allow baby birds grip to climb out and a predator slate to stop hunters getting in.

woodpecker house and nest

Where to place your woodpecker house

We would always suggest purchasing a woodpecker bird house in the fall, in order to give the birds plenty of opportunity to search them out, prior to breeding season.

Woodpeckers traditionally prefer to nest in trees rather than on poles, and if you already have woodpeckers making themselves known, it is a good idea to place your house in the vicinity of any previous pecking. This will not only discourage them for creating more holes but indicates that this is a good area for nesting.

When attaching your woodpecker bird house to a tree make sure that the entrance hole is facing slightly downwards to keep the wind and rain away from the entrance. Make sure it is securely fastened so that it does not swing or move in the breeze.

Finally, you should consider what predators may be nearby and make it as difficult as possible for them to reach the woodpecker house. Remove any surrounding branches and try to disguise it from being in obvious view.

A general rule of thumb when putting up bird houses in your backyards, is not to exceed two houses per species, per acre of land.

How to attract woodpeckers to nest

The more appealing you can make your backyard to woodpeckers, the more likely you are to view these fascinating birds. This means making sure that there are plenty of opportunities for woodpeckers too:

Although a bird feeder offers woodpeckers a food source without having to forage, most will seek out natural food supplies such as fruit trees, nut shrubs and insects. Therefore, by planting bushes and flowers that offer fruit bearing opportunities and encourage other bugs to come and eat, ensures woodpeckers have a hosting of dining options.

All birds, including woodpeckers, need a fresh water supply for drinking and bathing. Basic bird baths are great for catching glimpses of these vibrant birds as they flutter around.

A great woodpecker bird house will not guarantee you a resident unless you have plenty of shrubbery that can be used for nesting material. Twigs, plants, moss and leaves create the cosiest of beds, whilst large bushes and trees offer hiding places to stay safe from potential predators.

How to look after your woodpecker bird house

Breeding season is generally over by mid-August, and once you start to notice the woodpeckers leaving the nest, this is the perfect time to clean out your birdhouse. Keep a close eye, however, to check that they have completely fledged and not just taken a quick vacation.

Once you are sure they have gone for good, you can remove the old nesting materials and clean the house out thoroughly. Although there is some debate over whether removing the nesting material will discourage the woodpeckers from coming back, we personally would recommend doing so in order to prevent attracting rodents to the empty box.

Most woodpecker bird houses come with slide out bottoms or hinges that allow you easy access. Make sure you wear protective gloves and scrub the house thoroughly with a weak bleach solution – ideally one-part bleach to nine parts water. Afterwards, you should rinse well to get rid of any harsh chemicals and leave it open to dry completely.

Once clean, you can leave it until the fall to put back up, or alternative you can use it all year round as some birds may seek shelter during cold nights.

In Summary

Woodpeckers search for places to nest that will provide them with an enclosed shelter. This is why woodpecker bird houses are so effective at attracting different species to your backyard.

They are also a good deterrent as they distract woodpeckers from drilling other areas of your property and creating damage. If you continue to nurture them with water and food supplies, these exuberant birds will come back year after year.

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