Peanuts for Feeding Birds

Peanuts make a great treat for feeding wild birds. Their high fat and protein content provides birds with the energy they need, especially during cold weather and migration. Peanuts are a particularly good choice for larger birds like jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Here’s a deep dive into everything you need to know about feeding peanuts to birds.

Why Peanuts Are Good for Birds

Peanuts offer several key benefits that make them one of the best foods you can offer backyard birds:

High in Fat and Protein

Peanuts contain about 50% fat and 25% protein, packed with the calories and nutrients birds need for energy. The high fat content helps birds maintain body heat and survive cold winter nights. Peanuts are an especially good source of fat and protein for migrating birds that need extra energy for long flights.


A little goes a long way with peanuts. Their small size packs a big caloric punch. Just a single peanut meets about 10% of a chickadee’s daily energy needs. This energy density helps birds quickly refuel.


In addition to fat and protein, peanuts provide vitamins (especially B vitamins), minerals like magnesium and zinc, and some carbohydrates for a balanced source of nutrition. Their nutritional profile complements other backyard bird foods like seed mixes.

Enjoyed by Many Species

While black oil sunflower seeds attract the widest range of bird species, many birds relish peanuts too. Jays, woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, wrens, and chickadees are some of the top peanut-loving species. Even smaller birds like goldfinches will occasionally sample shelled peanut pieces.

Higher Value Food Reward

Compared to inexpensive seeds and suet, peanuts offer a higher-value food reward that appeals to birds. Their rich taste and nutrition makes peanuts a coveted treat. Birds will frequent peanut feeders while often ignoring cheaper foods.

Desirable Taste and Texture

In addition to nutritional value, peanuts offer a taste and texture that birds find desirable. Their crunchy texture and nutty, earthy flavor are naturally attractive to many backyard birds adapted to seek out fatty, protein-rich foods. Birds seem to enjoy pecking away at the shells to extract the peanuts inside.

Best Birds to Feed Peanuts To

While peanuts appeal to many common feeder birds, some species are especially fond of them. Target these birds by offering peanuts:


Jays relish peanuts. Their strong beaks make it easy for them to crack open the shell and devour the nut meat inside. Jays will hoard peanuts by burying them to dig up later when food is scarce. Draw jays to your yard by filling peanut feeders.


Woodpeckers like peanuts for their high fat content to fuel their energetic habits. These birds can cling to peanut feeders while they chisel away to reach the peanuts. Hairy, downy, red-bellied, and red-headed woodpeckers will all feed on peanuts.


Nuthatches are agile birds able to hang upside down as they ply peanut feeders for their favorite food. Their strong beaks easily break through peanut shells. Watch for white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches to stop by for peanuts.


Energetic and acrobatic, chickadees thrive on the calories packed into peanuts. They’ll cling to mesh peanut feeders and nibble away at the peanuts inside. Peanuts often attract large flocks of chickadees stocking up on food.


Titmice are close relatives of chickadees and share their affection for peanuts. Tufted titmice and black-crested titmice frequent backyard peanut feeders, sometimes chasing off other birds to keep the peanuts to themselves.


Though small, wrens like peanuts too. Their thin beaks can squeeze into the openings of mesh peanut feeders to pick away at the shelled peanut bits inside. Watch for Carolina wrens, house wrens, and winter wrens to visit peanut feeders.


With their intelligence and adaptability, crows can be trained to visit peanut feeders. Though not naturally attracted to them, crows will learn to associate peanuts with an easy meal. American crows, northwestern crows, and fish crows are among the species you might teach to eat peanuts.

Best Peanut Feeders for Birds

To successfully offer peanuts to birds, you need a specialized feeder designed for their shape, size, and weight. Consider these top styles:

Tube Feeders

Tube feeders with vertical bars or wire mesh to hold in peanuts while allowing birds to reach inside work well. Look for 1⁄2” to 1” spacing between bars. Squirrel-proof tubes with weight mechanisms also deter freeloaders. Hang tube feeders with drainage holes for easier cleaning.

Hopper Feeders

These box-shaped feeders with vertical openings keep peanuts contained while allowing bird access. Transparent sides let you monitor peanut level. Select hoppers made of chew-proof plastic that closes tightly to keep peanuts fresh. Mount under a roof overhang to keep peanuts dry.

Platform Feeders

Simple, open tray platform feeders allow easy peanut access for birds. But peanuts can be kicked off onto the ground, attracting rodents. Opt for models with drainage holes, raised edges, and a wire mesh covering to hold peanuts in place. Hang at least 5 feet off the ground.

Suet Feeders

Special “peanut butter” suet combines peanuts with suet fat into a nutritious cake. Suet feeders with cages or mesh allow birds to cling and peck while containing suet cakes. This is an easy way to offer peanuts without shells.

Ground Feeding

You can spread shelled, chopped peanuts directly on the ground or platform feeders. But beware this will also attract squirrels and rodents. Only put out small amounts birds will quickly eat up. Avoid spreading peanuts on the ground near trees or structures where rodents may live.

When choosing any peanut feeder, look for chew-proof, weather-resistant materials easy to disassemble and clean. Avoid plastic-coated wire mesh which can damage birds’ tongues. Locate feeders in sheltered spots safe from predators.

How to Offer Peanuts to Birds

Follow these tips to attract and nourish birds with peanuts:

  • Buy raw, shelled peanuts – skip salted or flavored nuts which can harm birds. Opt for shelled peanuts to avoid birds carrying pieces away and litter.
  • Provide various peanut pieces – offering whole peanuts, halved nuts, and peanut bits will accommodate different size birds.
  • Mix with other foods – combine peanuts with sunflower seeds, raisins, chopped fruit, mealworms, and suet in feeders. Added variety will attract more species.
  • Use quality feeders – invest in feeders designed for peanuts that protect them from moisture and keep squirrels out. Durable metal and high-impact plastics last.
  • Give birds space – separate peanut feeders from other food sources so dominant birds like jays don’t monopolize all feeders. Stop bullying by providing ample stations.
  • Use feeder trays – place feeders over large trays to catch dropped peanuts birds can still eat. This minimizes waste.
  • Don’t overfill – leaving room in feeders allows birds to forage and ensures freshness. Overfilling leads to stale, wet peanuts birds won’t eat.
  • Keep feeders clean – periodically clean peanut feeders with soap and water to prevent mold and salmonella bacteria that can sicken birds.
  • Store properly – keep unused peanuts in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate during summer heat. Properly stored, peanuts keep for up to 9 months.

By following these tips, you can provide peanuts safely and attractively. Be sure to monitor feeders and adjust offerings based on what birds seem to prefer.

When to Offer Peanuts

Peanuts are a nutritious food birds will eat year-round. But they are especially beneficial during:

Cold Weather

The fat and calories in peanuts help birds survive challenging winter conditions. Offering peanuts December through February sustains birds when insect food is scarce and nights are long. Stock up your peanut feeders for the coldest months.

Migration Seasons

Long migrations are strenuous for birds. They need high energy foods to fuel up. Place peanut feeders from March to May for northbound migrants and August to October for southbound birds stopping by your yard.

Nesting Season

Parent birds need extra nutrition when breeding and feeding nestlings. Make peanut feeders available April through July when most backyard birds are nesting. The fat will support parents and help fledglings develop.

All Year

Don’t take peanut feeders down during warmer months. While birds enjoy insects and fruit too, peanuts remain a nutritious supplementary food. Year-round peanut feeding provides a reliable food source birds will appreciate.

Peanuts are more critical for birds during cold weather and migration. But maintaining their availability daily offers a consistent food source birds will come to rely on through the seasons.

Potential Drawbacks of Peanuts for Birds

While peanuts have many benefits, there are a few potential downsides to consider:

Messy Debris

Whole peanuts are too large for some birds to eat. They can be carried off, dropped on the ground, and left as messy litter that attracts rodents. Offering shelled pieces in specialized feeders minimizes this problem.

Quick Spoilage

Exposed to rain and humidity, peanuts decompose quickly into mold and bacteria hazardous to birds. Use weatherproof feeders that close securely and change peanuts every few days in warm weather. Discard moldy peanuts.

Risk of Choking

Whole peanuts pose a minor risk of choking for smaller birds like chickadees if swallowed. Chopped peanuts are safer for small birds. Monitor use and adjust peanut sizes as needed for safety.


Though rare in birds, peanut allergies are possible. Allergies cause flaky skin, feather loss, and scaly feet. Stop feeding peanuts if allergic reactions appear and birds recover when peanuts are removed.

Dominant Birds

Aggressive species like jays may stake out peanut feeders and chase away timid birds. Offer multiple peanut feeders in different spots to allow equal access. Squirrel guards also keep bullies away.

With proper feeder selection and monitoring, these drawbacks are easy to avoid. The benefits peanuts offer typically far outweigh minor risks. Always supervise feeders and adapt offerings to keep birds safe and well nourished.

How Many Peanuts Do Birds Eat?

Birds consume relatively small amounts of peanuts compared to their small body size. A few peanuts per day provides sufficient calories:

  • Small birds like chickadees eat around 5-10 whole peanuts daily.
  • Medium birds like woodpeckers consume 10-15 peanuts per day.
  • Large birds like crows and jays eat 15-20 peanuts as part of their varied diet.

In very cold weather when more calories are required, consumption may double. Always keep feeders stocked so birds have access to adequate food. Monitor use and refill peanut feeders often, especially during harsh weather. Remove any old, spoiled peanuts.

The high fat density of peanuts means a little goes a long way. Just a handful of peanuts from a feeder provides a day’s worth of energy for birds. This makes peanuts an economical bird food, lasting a long time compared to volume of seeds or suet used.

Peanut Butter Suet for Birds

An easy way to serve peanuts is to mix them into suet cakes. Suet is the hard fat around beef kidneys which provides a concentrated energy source for birds. You can make homemade suet or buy ready-made cakes.

To add peanuts, either stir crunched peanuts into rendered suet tallow before it hardens, or soften commercial suet cakes slightly in the microwave and then mix in chopped peanuts. Pour the suet-peanut mixture into molds and let cool until hardened.

Other add-ins like cornmeal, oats, birdseed, raisins, or dried fruit make suet cakes even more nutritious. Use suet feeders designed to hold the cakes for mess-free feeding. Birds will relish the taste and texture of peanut butter suet cakes.

Are Raw or Roasted Peanuts Better?

Feeding birds raw, unsalted peanuts is definitely best. Here’s why:

Higher Fat Content

Raw peanuts retain more of their natural oils which comprise 50% of their calories. Roasting reduces fat content by cooking some away. Birds benefit from the rich, unprocessed whole fat in raw nuts.

Easier to Digest

Roasting makes peanuts crunchier but less digestible. Raw peanuts contain more intact proteins and carbohydrates birds can break down and utilize. Their softer texture also makes raw peanuts easier for small birds to chew and swallow.

No Seasonings

Roasted peanuts meant for humans are often flavored with sugars, salts, spices, or preservatives. These seasonings offer no nutrition and can actually harm birds. Raw peanuts have no additives birds can’t tolerate.

So for the highest fat energy content, greatest digestibility, and purity, always choose unprocessed, raw peanuts as your bird feeding peanut of choice. Birds will benefit from peanuts in their natural state.

Are Peanuts Safe for Birds?

With a few simple precautions, peanuts are completely safe for backyard birds:

  • Ensure freshness – discard any peanuts that smell rancid or show signs of mold, which can sicken birds.
  • Give shelled pieces – whole nuts won’t mold or decompose as rapidly but can still go bad in heat. Chopped nuts stay fresh longer.
  • Provide proper feeders – specialized tubes or mesh feeders keep peanuts clean and dry. Discard waterlogged nuts which can grow dangerous aspergillus fungus.
  • Practice moderation – peanuts should be occasional treats, not the sole food. Varied diets are healthiest for birds.
  • Monitor for illness – immediately remove peanuts if feeding them correlates with birds getting sick.
  • Control squirrels – use guards to keep squirrels away from peanuts. Their grubby claws and teeth spread germs.

With smart precautions, peanut feeding is perfectly safe. In fact, the nutritional benefits peanuts offer likely outweigh any minimal risks. Just be attentive and adapt as needed to ensure bird health.

Peanut-Loving Bird Feeding Tips

Here are some tips for using peanuts to attract your favorite backyard birds:

  • Mix peanuts with sunflower seeds and dried fruit in tube feeders for chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers. The combination of foods will appeal to more species.
  • Look for no-waste peanut feeders with large seed catcher trays to attract scrub jays and other large birds that tend to toss peanuts aside to find perfectly shelled pieces. They will appreciate being able to sift through peanuts in the tray below.
  • Add peanut suet cakes to attract insect-eating birds like wrens and warblers that don’t naturally eat nuts but will sample the nutritious, fatty suet.
  • Chop peanuts into very small pieces for goldfinches and pine siskins to nibble on platform feeders or ground feeding sites. Finely minced peanuts allow the smallest birds to sample them.
  • Offer peanuts in hanging feeders, tube feeders, platform feeders, suet feeders, and ground feeding sites to appeal to the most species with varying feeding preferences.
  • Choose black oil sunflower seeds as your staple bird food, as the greatest number of birds eat these. Then supplement with peanuts as a high-fat treat many birds relish.

The wider the variety of peanut offerings, the more species you will satisfy. Get creative mixing peanuts with other foods to create bountiful bird banquets. Soon your yard will be bustling with satisfied birds feasting on peanuts!

Frequently Asked Questions About Peanuts for Birds

Can you feed birds roasted salted peanuts?

No. Roasted, salted peanuts made for human snacking should not be fed to birds. The salt and seasoning is unhealthy. Only raw, unsalted peanuts still in their shells are suitable for birds.

Do you need a special feeder for peanuts?

Yes, regular bird feeders designed for seeds and suet are too small and will not properly contain whole peanuts. Invest in tube-style or mesh peanut feeders that allow pecking while securely holding peanuts. Platform feeders with wire mesh tops also work for shelled peanut bits.

Do birds drink water after eating peanuts?

Most birds immediately seek out a water source after eating dry foods like peanuts and seeds to help digestion. Offer a birdbath or fountain within view of peanut feeders so birds can easily get water to wash peanuts down.

Can squirrels have peanuts from bird feeders?

It’s best not to intentionally feed squirrels. Their continuous gnawing and clawing damages peanut feeders, leading to waste. Squirrels are also more likely to hoard feeds in unsafe places. Use feeders with squirrel guards to reserve peanuts for birds.

How often should you replace peanuts in feeders?

To stay fresh, replace peanuts in feeders about once a week in winter and every 2-3 days in summer’s heat and humidity. Discard any moldy or decomposed peanuts, wash feeders in soapy water, and replenish with fresh nuts.

What birds don’t like peanuts?

Finches and sparrows