Peanuts are a staple of any bird feeder’s arsenal; they’re cheap, easy to refill, and seem to attract many different bird species.
Have you ever stopped to notice which birds eat peanuts and if the smaller songbirds manage to get a look-in?
It’s easier to discuss which birds DON’T eat peanuts, as most of our regular garden visitors will partake, especially if there is nothing else available.
You’re less likely to see wrens and some members of the tit family, but that is because they face stiff competition from the bully-boy house sparrows.
Corvids and nuthatches enjoy whole peanuts, while great tits, blackbirds, and robins prefer them crushed.
Which birds eat whole peanuts
blackbirds and robins would struggle with whole nuts.
Members of the Corvid (crow) family, such as jays, jackdaws, and magpies have strong bills, tough enough to make light work of whole peanuts.
Other large birds such as nuthatches or hooded crows cleverly hoard peanuts in caches, returning to them when the temperatures drop, and food is scarce.
Peanuts help attract large birds to the garden, especially if you have a tree or log pile. Stuff the nuts into crevices in the bark and wait for woodpeckers and nuthatches to discover them.
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Which birds eat crushed peanuts
I always feed crushed peanuts and recommend everyone else to do so. I couldn’t bear to think of fledglings choking to death on whole nuts.
Most birds will eat crushed nuts; they are quick to gobble down and safe for the young.
Soft-beaked birds like kibbled nuts; blackbirds and robins would struggle with whole nuts, even if they succeeded in nibbling through the shell.
Other birds that enjoy peanuts are;
- wrens – they eat quickly to avoid predators
- great tits
- blue tits – acrobatic birds that hang at the strangest angles from peanut feeders
- jays – they eat peanuts as an alternative to acorns
- greenfinches – these small birds love peanuts, but only if no other birds are around
- thrushes – both the song and mistle thrush eat peanuts
- sparrows – the most common birds at my peanut feeders; up to 7 or 8 at a time, changing places with others waiting their turn on nearby branches
How to Feed Peanuts to the Birds
Whole peanuts are a choking hazard to small birds, and even more so if they try to feed them to fledglings.
Either provide kibbled or crushed nuts or use a dedicated peanut feeder for whole nuts. They are usually made of steel or wire – the mesh is big enough to allow birds to nibble on bits of nut but small enough to prevent a whole nut to slip through.
Peanut butter is a tasty treat for the birds, just blitz a handful of peanuts in a food processor and smear the paste onto fruit or feeders to entice the birds.
I make kinds of nut butter and add honey to make them sweeter; this is good for the family to eat, but not for the wildlife. Honey harbours bacteria harmful to birds; they don’t need the sweet kick.
Never be tempted to offer the birds peanut butter meant for humans; instead, buy bird-friendly spreads.
Netting bags of peanuts – are they safe?
If you purchase peanuts in one of those red netting bags, please decant them into a safe feeder and discard the bag.
Small birds are prone to getting their claws trapped in the mesh, resulting in loss of limbs, or worse still, death.
Are peanuts good for birds?
Peanuts are 45% fat and 24% protein; fat keeps birds warm on cold days, and protein builds their strength.
Never feed salted, sweet, or oven-roasted peanuts. They are designed for the human palate; in birds, the high sodium and sugar levels might cause increased heart rate, seizures, even death.
As long as they are offered in dedicated feeders and aflatoxin-free, peanuts are a perfect food supplement for birds.
What is aflatoxin?
Surprisingly, peanuts aren’t nuts – they are legumes (members of the bean family) that grow beneath the ground. Their harvesting and storage methods make them susceptible to mould, in which a toxic compound called aflatoxin grows. It is unsafe for human consumption and can prove fatal to birds. It attacks their immune systems and damages their liver.
Ensure the peanuts you buy are aflatoxin tested and keep our feathered friends safe.
If you only typically offer the birds in your garden seed mixes, try peanuts for a change. So many species of birds eat peanuts that you’ll be amazed at the influx of different types that might visit.
Virtually all our garden birds eat peanuts; just be sure to put them in a safe ground feeder or hang from a branch.
The birds only need to find it once and are sure to return for their free snack loaded with fat, fibre, and protein.