The diet of the Pale-billed Woodpecker has not been studied in detail. Apparently the most common food items are the large larvae of wood-boring beetles (especially of the families Cerambycidae and Scarabeidae), which make up at least 70% of the diet (Winkler and Christie 2002). These beetles also are fed to the young (Short 1982). Skutch (1969) reported that these woodpeckers also may consume termites (Skutch 1969).
The Pale-billed Woodpecker also consumes some fruit. Skutch (1969) reported a male eating small, black berries of an unidentified melastome tree.
In captivity, this species was maintained for up to two years on a diet of mealworms, supplemented with an occasional grape or raisin (Throp 1957).