Are Woodpeckers Aggressive To Other Birds?

Woodpeckers are often brightly-colored birds known for the distinctive noises they make by pounding their beak against wood or other hard surfaces. Have you ever wondered why they behave this way? Are woodpeckers aggressive to other birds, and do they show this aggression through their pecking? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more.

Are Woodpeckers Aggressive to Other Birds?

are woodpeckers aggressive to other birds

Woodpeckers are generally pretty shy; they tend to keep to their own territory and avoid feeding or socializing with other birds.

For this reason, they usually are not aggressive toward other birds.

This is the general rule. But there are exceptions.

Woodpeckers, like many other birds, will become aggressive if their territory is invaded. They will attack other birds, as well as other animals and sometimes even people, who enter their territory.

They may attack other birds to defend their young, their mates, or their food as well. In fact, they will attack anything they perceive as a threat, as you can see in the following video:

Again, though, woodpeckers only behave this way when their territory is invaded and they feel threatened. They will attack to defend what is theirs, but they prefer to avoid confrontation when possible.

Do Woodpeckers Eat Baby Birds?

Woodpeckers are foragers by nature; they typically eat insects, fruits, and nuts. That said, they will sometimes eat other small animals such as lizards and rodents.

Some species of woodpecker will also eat baby birds, and even smaller adult birds.

It’s important to note that they don’t actively hunt other birds or their young. As foragers, they simply eat whatever they can find, when they can find it.

If a woodpecker spots another bird’s nest, it may watch the nest, waiting for the adult birds to leave it unattended. Then, it will swoop in for a nutritious meal.

Woodpeckers will hammer into baby birds’ skulls and use their barbed tongues to extract the brain matter, which is much like a juicy grub or other fat insect to them.

Even if a nest is protected by a nesting box or situated securely in a tree hollow, woodpeckers can reach the baby birds by pounding at the next entrance, making it large enough for them to gain access.

While this may seem like aggressive behavior, it is not. Woodpeckers don’t usually fight other birds, which is why they wait for parents to leave their nests unattended before they strike.

From the woodpecker’s perspective, they are just looking for a tasty meal, and a nest full of baby birds is like hitting the jackpot. However, they won’t actively fight for that meal.

If anything, they may be forced to fight if the parents return and attack them while they are raiding the nest.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck?

Woodpeckers peck for many reasons. 

One of the most common reasons for that distinctive drumming noise you hear is that woodpeckers are establishing their territory. They peck on trees to claim them and to warn other birds and animals in the area to stay away.

Once their territory is established, woodpeckers will drum on trees to create hollows for their nests. They then build their nests inside these hollowed-out portions of trees.

They also drum holes into trees when searching for food. They use their excellent sense of hearing to detect insects moving around inside the wood, then they drill holes into the wood and use their barbed tongues to reach the insects.

Woodpeckers may also stash food in holes they’ve made in trees. They create holes just large enough for acorns or other pieces of food, then hammer a piece of food into each hole, as seen in the video above.

Woodpeckers often peck on wood or other hard objects, such as windows and metal siding, to attract a mate. 

Finally, woodpeckers may peck at existing tree hollows or nesting boxes in order to gain access and retrieve the unattended baby birds inside.

Woodpeckers make frequent use of their hard, tough beak, continuously pecking wood and other objects with enough force that any human trying to mimic the action would be knocked unconscious.

How to Protect Other Birds From Woodpeckers

How to Protect Other Birds From Woodpeckers

We’ve established that it’s pretty unlikely for a woodpecker to attack other adult birds, unless they are defending their territory. However, they will forage baby birds of other species if the nests are left unattended.

If you have a variety of birds in your garden, including woodpeckers, you may be wondering what you can do to protect other species’ nests.

Fortunately, you can ensure all the birds in your yard get along by giving woodpeckers their own territory. Since they are typically shy of other birds, they will usually stay in their own area and leave other territories alone as long as they have plenty of food.

Here are some steps you can take to attract woodpeckers to a specific area of your yard:

  • Plant pine or oak trees: woodpeckers prefer these types of trees. They enjoy eating pine nuts and acorns, and these large trees provide plenty of cover and are often home to a variety of insects the woodpeckers can eat.
  • Plant fruit vines and bushes: woodpeckers enjoy eating various types of fruit, including strawberries, grapes, and blueberries. Planting these fruit plants in and around your woodpecker territory will further encourage them to call the area home by giving them an abundant source of tasty and nutritious food.
  • Feed them sugar water: like many birds, woodpeckers love sugar water. If you give them their own sugar water feeders in their own territory, chances are good that they will leave other birds and feeders in your yard alone.
  • Use platform and suet feeders: woodpeckers prefer to perch while eating, so using platform feeders will be most effective at attracting them to specific areas. You can feed them suet, peanuts, peanut butter, and other seeds, nuts, and fruits to encourage them to come back.

Taking these steps will help you draw your resident woodpeckers to a specific territory in your yard, which in turn will encourage them to leave other birds and their nests alone.


Woodpeckers generally aren’t aggressive toward other birds unless they are defending their territory. However, they do sometimes eat baby birds. To guard against this, you can set up a designated woodpecker area in your yard to draw them away from the other birds and any nesting boxes you may have.

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