Woodpeckers are great – they look good and they are fascinating to watch. The trouble is that where I live they don’t appear that often. I hear them in the trees nearby but I wanted to know how I could attract them to my garden. Is it even possible to entice woodpeckers to your back garden?
As you will see by the end of this post, it is possible to attract woodpeckers to your garden. Knowing how woodpeckers feed and how to replicate that is going to help. This is where a log feeder comes in. I have had some success attracting a great spotted woodpecker to a tree in my garden since using one. I am going to show you how to make a log feeder for garden birds below. Before we make one (feel free to scroll down to that bit now) I want to explain why they work so well.
There are many different types of garden bird and they feed in different ways – tree feeders, that cling to branches and hanging feeders, ground feeders that mainly feed from seed and other food they find on or in the ground. There are also tree feeders that dig around in the bark of trees to find their food. You can probably see where I am going with this…
Replicating a Bird’s Natural Feeding Environment
I mentioned earlier that it is helpful if we can replicate a bird’s feeding needs. By this I mean we should think about how a woodpecker feeds in the wild. They exist in large trees, where there are bugs and crawly things they can pick out from cracks in the bark. They use their sharp beaks to peck into a tree trunk, where they will find food.
A log feeder replicates this by presenting food in large and small holes up and down the log. A woodpecker and any other bird can cling to the log, as if it where a tree and find the food they want. After we make our log feeder we are going to use a suet mix toand sunflower hearts to fill the holes.
A handy tip is to smear any left over suet mix you have into the bark of a tree trunk if you have a tree in your garden. Birds will find it quite natural to climb around the tree, finding their food as they go. This is best in the colder months though, as suet and fat mixes provide valuable nutrients to a bird in the winter months and stays solidified. In the summer months it just becomes a sticky mess that can cling to feathers and cause problems.
How To Make A Log Feeder For A Woodpecker (and other garden birds)
OK, the whys and wherefores are over – this is what you are here for. I am going to take you through some really simple steps, showing you how easy and quick it is to make your own log feeder.
Materials You Will Need
There are some basic things you need to make this feeder. You should be able to find them easily around the home but if not, maybe you can borrow what you need.
There are five basic things you will need:
- A log
- Flat drill bit (around 1″ or 20 mm wide)
- Wood drill bits (around 2 mm & 6 mm)
- string or twine
Oh… and some bird food!
Choosing Your Log – The log you use will need to be large enough to drill a series of holes in that are deep enough to push suet mix into. There will also need to be enough holes to make this worthwhile. I recommend you find a log at least a foot long and at least 4 inches or 8 cm in diameter. It doesn’t really matter what type of tree the log is from but it could be beneficial if it were from a nearby habitat where woodpeckers are likely to live and feed (familiarity).
Step One – Drilling Large Holes
Load up your flat drill bit and hold your log securely. You can see I was using an old Black & Decker Workmate to help me hold things in place if needed. Drill a series of holes in the log about 20 mm deep, maybe a little deeper. These holes are going to be filled with suet mix so make them sufficiently deep to squish it in there!
Drill as many holes as you see fit; I suggest a few along the length of the log so you can see two or three holes from every angle. I probably could have done more but a bit like this:
Step Two – Smaller Holes
Now you have the large holes drilled out there is still space to add some smaller holes. These holes can be stuffed with sunflower hearts and provide a natural way of feeding, where birds can peck into the wood to get seed out.
Load up your smaller drill bit. These holes only need to be wide enough and deep enough to pack in a sunflower seed or a fragment of nut. Again, drill as many holes as you want, without going all out and covering the whole log. Maybe just a few dotted around, as I have highlighted below.
Step Three – Decide How To Hang Your Log Feeder
It really was a simple as that – we’re almost done! Before filling your log feeder with bird food, decide how you are going to hang it. The two obvious options are a metal hook or string.
I chose both – the hook for hanging and the string as a fail safe, should the log be knocked from it’s branch. I also find that depending on where I am hanging my log feeder, string is more useful and flexible than the hook.
Hanging Your Log Feeder With A Hook
You may have a hook or two knocking about in your shed. If not, you only need something like this – inexpensive and does the job. If you don’t have any of these hooks at home, follow the next step and use string or twine.
The type of hook you need should be metal and threaded, so it is strong and will simply screw into your log feeder. Fix it in the centre of the log on the top surface, as in the above photo. You might find it useful to drill a small pilot hole before screwing in your hook.
Hanging Your Log Feeder With String
If you opt for string, you will now need your larger wood drill bit. You will need to drill a hole through the side of the log so you can thread your hanging string through.
The hole should be near the top edge of the log and through the centre. This will ensure your log hangs vertically and not at a funny angle.
Choose a drill bit wide enough that the string will easily thread through – the hole doesn’t need to be excessively wide. A handy tip I found useful was to wrap some sticky tape around the edge of the string before threading it through the log.
The tape helped prevent the string from fraying and getting stuck. Once it is in the hole, if it doesn’t easily thread, use the drill bit you just drilled the hole with to push the string through the hole.
Step Four – Filling Your Log Feeder With Bird Food
Your log feeder should now be complete and ready to fill with ‘birdy’ treats. The method for preparing the suet mix is further down this post. There are loads of different methods and ingredients on the internet – a quick Google search throws these up to start with.
Using a spoon or your fingers, take small amounts of suet mix and push it into the larger holes you drilled. Push it in well so it sticks and stays in place. You can leave some mix protruding, this doesn’t have to be too neat and specific.
Step Five – Hanging Your log Feeder
Now you need to choose a suitable location for your log feeder. I have hung mine on a shepherd’s crook type feeder and in a tree. I have to say that the tree was way better. This kind of makes sense, as we are trying to replicate a tree feeding environment with our log.
My Log Feeder In Action
This is my finished feeder complete with suet mix in the large holes and sunflower hearts in the small holes. The first tree I used got no visits at all. I had remembered this tree had always been a bit rubbish for bird feeders!
I moved it to the other, busier tree and also smeared some suet mix into the bark of the trunk. Within minutes there was activity, mainly from a robin and a couple of long tail tits – no woodpecker.
The usual activity continued with tits, robins and a magpie enjoying the feeder.
Some months later I set up my wildlife camera, strapping it to the tree trunk. I wanted to capture the activity going on in the tree around the log feeder.
I refilled the log and forgot about it for a few days. When I reviewed the footage on the memory card I was so excited to see a woodpecker had come to visit my log feeder!
Although the canopy of the tree didn’t allow the best light for the camera, there was enough to see the great spotted woodpecker tapping away at the log and enjoying the food.
Here is a clip showing the woodpecker. If you want to know more about easy garden bird photography for beginners, take a look at my other post here – Easy Ways Of Photographing Garden Birds – Not As Expensive As You Think.
Here’s my great spotted woodpecker finding the log feeder…
How To Make Your Own Homemade Suet Mix For Garden Birds
Because lard or another fatty ingredients are used in this, remember it is recommended you only use this kind of mix in the colder winter months. If you use this in warmer weather the fat will melt and become sticky; causing problems for the birds as is gets stuck on beaks and in their feathers.
Ingredients For Homemade Suet Mix
The below list is not exhaustive and some testing may be required to establish what food your garden birds enjoy the most. Here are some popular things to add:
- Lard (or any similar fat based ingredient)
- Mixed birds seed (good quality)
- Peanuts (unsalted)
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Dried fruit
- Porridge oats
All these things are firm favourites with many garden birds. I have to be honest, some mixes I have made didn’t prove such a hit. Maybe the birds are brand snobs and Aldi peanut butter just wasn’t good enough?! As I said earlier, experiment and see what the birds like and stick with that.
I found the following has attracted a woodpecker a few times more recently:
- Peanut butter
- Seed mix
It could just be he/ she saw the feeder and came to inspect it, rather than actually liking what was on it. Either way, the woodpecker comes to my log feeder!
How To Make The Mix
Chop some lard into small cubes and place them in a bowl. Making small cubes helps to mix it with the other ingredients. Either allow it reach room temperature and become malleable, or you could warm it in an oven. To save time you might want to use use a microwave instead, just wait until the lard is soft enough to mix. Make sure your bowl is suited to these methods.
Add some of the other ingredients to the lard and mix well. Start with small amounts and choose just two or three things to add. Maybe make more than one feeder with different ingredients, to test which ones are most popular. Mix your chosen ingredients into the lard and add more to the mix until you have a nice mixture of treats throughout the lard.
For the mixing there is no more to it than that but each time you do this you pick up a few tips along the way that make the process easier and more effective. For example, the microwave trick to melt the lard.
Ways Of Using Homemade Suet Mix
Once you have made your suet mix you will need a means to get it to the birds. Clearly the purpose of this post was to make a log feeder – ideal!
There are many other creative ways to feed your suet mixture to the birds in your garden. This can be as simple as reusing a yogurt pot, refilling a shop bought coconut shell bird feeder or even just sculpting them into blocks to be used in a suet feeder already hanging in your garden.
I will be adding a guide on how to do all of this in more detail soon but in the meantime, Google is your friend…