Bird Feeding Tips: Peanuts in the Shell vs. Shelled Peanuts

A commonly asked bird feeding question is what type of birds eat different types of peanuts.

When giving presentations on bird feeding, I’m often asked about which type of peanuts people should use in their feeders. People typically aren’t sure which birds prefer each type of peanut, and they want to be sure to offer the birds the type that will be most popular. Here is a quick guide to the birds that prefer each type of peanut.

Peanuts in the Shell

Blue Jays and other jay species in the US love peanuts in the shell. These species are the reason that many people choose to offer this type of peanut. In addition to Blue Jays, I’ve regularly seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers enjoy peanuts in the shell. Other species will take these peanuts from time to time, but they are a bit hard to crack open for many of the smaller birds. One common problem with feeding peanuts in the shell is that squirrels are crazy about them. If you choose to feed any type of peanut, be prepared to deal with squirrels and other critters.

In the western US, Steller's Jays are big fans of peanuts in the shell.In the western US, Steller's Jays are big fans of peanuts in the shell.
In the western US, Steller’s Jays are big fans of peanuts in the shell
Red-billed Woodpeckers like peanuts in the shell but you might also find them at a shelled peanut feeder.Red-billed Woodpeckers like peanuts in the shell but you might also find them at a shelled peanut feeder.
Red-billed Woodpeckers like peanuts in the shell but you might also find them at a shelled peanut feeder.

Shelled Peanuts

I personally think that Shelled Peanuts are the better type of peanut to offer. Since they’ve been shelled, all of the birds are able to eat it without too much trouble. Many species will take advantage of the high protein content of peanuts especially during times of very cold temperatures. Some of the most common species that make use of my shelled peanut feeder are chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. Not only do those species regularly use the feeder, I’ve seen almost all of the birds that frequent my bird feeders eat a peanut or two at some point. You really never know what species might stop by for a peanut!

Red-breasted Nuthatches are one of the species that I'm always hoping to find at my shelled peanut feeder.Red-breasted Nuthatches are one of the species that I'm always hoping to find at my shelled peanut feeder.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are one of the species that I’m always hoping to find at my shelled peanut feeder.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.