Attract More New Species With Peanuts for Birds

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You’ll be impressed with the variety of species you’ll attract by offering peanuts at your bird feeders.

Nuthatchwbcd Yl5t0182kSteve and Dave Maslowski
An acrobatic white-breasted nuthatch clings to a feeder full of peanuts in the shell.

Why You Should Offer Peanuts for Birds

Peanuts are like a secret weapon for people who love feeding birds. Your feathered friends will go nuts for the fat- and protein-packed treat that is super easy for backyard bird-watchers to serve. They can be an expensive item to offer on a regular basis, but they’ll bring in a wide variety of new birds. “If you like offering peanuts for birds, but find them a bit pricey, mix out-of-shell peanuts with black oil sunflower seeds. Both can be fed from the same feeder,” says birding expert Kimberly Kaufman.

Peanuts in almost any form are a lifesaver in the depths of winter, but they will draw a huge crowd year-round. Put out the peanut feeders, and let the bird circus begin!

Birds That Eat Peanuts

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t attract peanut eaters right away. Remind yourself that it’s worth the wait. Just look at the variety of birds you can add to your backyard when you offer peanuts:

Jays

peanuts for birdsSteve and Dave Maslowski
This blue jay is likely going to stash its peanut away to eat it later.

Jays seem to sense whenever peanuts are put out within a 5-mile radius. You won’t see them in your yard for months or years, but as soon as you offer peanuts in a shell, they can appear within days or even hours! If you’ve ever attempted to grab a big handful of potato chips, you’ll laugh when you watch jays try to do the same with peanuts. Discarding those that don’t fit, they stuff as many as possible into their throat pouch and bill. All blue-colored jay species are enthusiastic peanut eaters— and stashers, caching their treasures under tree bark, in crevices or beside rocks to retrieve later.

Woodpeckers

Shutterstock 192162245Angel72/Shutterstock
It’s always fun to watch woodpeckers, like this agile downy, snatch nuts from the bottom of a cage feeder.

Every woodpecker, from the adorable downy to the giant pileated, eagerly snatches peanuts to eat on the spot or store for a later day. Whole, chopped or shelled—when it comes to these snacks, they are not picky.

Small Songbirds

Tufted TitmouseKathy Adams Clark/KAC Productions
Yes, one of these large peanuts fits in the small bill of a tufted titmouse.

Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches may be small, but they’re among the biggest peanut fans, employing assorted techniques for claiming their prizes. Songbirds are known to hammer the shell, holding it down with their feet. They carry off shelled nuts to stash or eat elsewhere, and they also eagerly devour chopped ones. All of these little gray birds usually take their treats to go, but you can bet they come back again and again. All five North American titmice—tufted, black-crested, juniper, bridled and oak—stop by feeders for a peanut snack.

Northern Cardinals

Female Red Cardinal Bird on Wooden Deck eating a peanutPaul James Comtois/Getty Images
Female cardinal eating a peanut

Serve these beauties peanuts out of the shell as whole or half nuts, or chopped to attract cardinals. The pyrrhuloxia, the “desert cardinal” of the Southwest, loves this food just as much as its bright red relative.

Wrens

Bnbbyc16 Kathy Fritzges 002Courtesy Kathy Fritzges
Carolina wren eating a peanut

Shelled or chopped peanuts are favored by these perky-tailed birds. If the nuts aren’t chopped, wrens work to break off manageable bits. Any species of wren in the neighborhood may visit a peanut feeder, and once a bird finds it, it’ll soon be a regular. Find out what wrens eat and how to attract them.

Native Sparrows, Juncos, Towhees and Doves

Small chipping sparrow feeding on a nut in my garden during sprintimeLuc Pouliot/Getty Images
Chipping sparrow 

Keep an eye on the ground beneath peanut feeders, where white-throated, white-crowned, golden-crowned, song and other native sparrows, plus juncos, towhees and doves, often gather to eagerly peck up bits that other birds have dropped.

Surprise Guests

peanuts for birdsCourtesy Kerrie Wilcox
Brown creeper

When you serve peanuts, expect the unexpected! Bluebirds, robins, crossbills and other not-so-common feeder birds might visit peanut feeders. “Catbirds, orioles and tanagers happily consume the broken-off pieces from birds pecking the larger nuts,” Scott says. So will thrashers, robins mockingbirds, bluebirds and birds that usually eat insects, fruit and other soft foods.

Shell or No Shell

steller's jay with peanutCourtesy Keith Mcclellan
Steller’s jay eating a whole peanut

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter—they’re going to get eaten. Peanuts in almost any form are attractive to birds. Keep in mind that they do require different types of feeders. So make sure you align your feeder with your feed.

It can be fun to watch birds with those large, in-shell peanuts, taking them off to crack or cache. “Don’t underestimate the attractiveness of peanuts in the shell,” says Scott Edwards, guest editor of the National Bird-Feeding Society. “Blue jays seem to prefer them this way, and woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice will take them on as well.”

Peanuts out of the shell tempt cardinals, mockingbirds and more. Serve them chopped and birds that typically eat soft foods, such as tanagers, wrens, bluebirds and thrashers, come to the peanut feast.

Raw or roasted? It’s a common question, and both are beloved by birds, but “we generally recommend against salted peanuts,” says Holly Faulkner, project assistant for Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Keep Peanut Feeders Clean

Don’t give birds your leftovers from the ball game. If it’s damp or rainy in your area, clean out those feeders because like other seed, peanuts can get moldy. If you know it’s going to be rainy, conserve by just putting out a few peanuts at a time.

Learn how to clean bird feeders.

Battling Squirrels

Yes, it’s true that squirrels love peanuts just as much as birds. First of all—good luck. They sure can be persistent! However, there are a few peanut feeders designed to be squirrel-proof. Most are for out-of-shell peanuts. Otherwise, find a good squirrel baffle to keep those furry critters away. Another option—buy a peanut feeder designed for squirrels! Many readers swear by the theory that if you give the squirrels their own place to eat, they’ll leave the bird feeding area alone.

Peanut Feeders We Love

Scatter nuts in a tray feeder for an instant lure, but try these special feeders, too.

Peanutfeederphoto, peanuts for birdsVia Merchant

Squirrel Buster Peanut Plus

Squirrels make peanuts vanish in a flash, but European starlings and grackles are attracted to this snack, too. Block eager eaters with this squirrel-proof design.

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Sunflower Seed and Peanut Feeder

11 Perkypet Bbon18Via Merchant

This feeder makes it hard for squirrels to get the nuts, but wrens, chickadees and other birds find plenty of places to get a grip.

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Hanging Peanut Wreath Feeder

BluejayfeederVia Amazon.com

Watch jays, squirrels and other peanut-lovers extricate their prizes from this unique wreath-shaped metal feeder.

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Sally Roth
Sally Roth is an award-winning author of more than 20 popular books about gardening, nature, and birds, including the best-selling Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible. Roth is also a contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She and her husband share their home in the high Rockies with a variety of animals.