Jan 16, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2017

Peanuts Provide Protein

Birds attracted with peanuts include woodpeckers, jays, crows, magpies, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, towhees, juncos, and some finches.
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Peanuts are a vital part of my feeding program. Peanuts offer a great, high-protein boost to winter-weary birds, and help insect-eaters like wrens, woodpeckers, and sometimes even sapsuckers make it through a frigid period, or when ice or deep snow make foraging extra challenging. Offered in the shell, only crows, jays, and the occasional clever titmouse can really exploit them because peanuts are just too big and cumbersome for most birds to crack open. Better feed and seed stores, though, sell raw, shelled peanuts in bulk. Because I can't always find these in my area, I buy the cheapest, unsalted, roasted cocktail peanuts available in the grocery store and intended for human consumption.

Offer peanuts in a feeder that keeps larger birds from carrying them away whole. You can use a sturdy nylon mesh onion bag to hold them, and hang it from a wire, or you can easily make your own peanut feeder out of 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth. Roll the hardware cloth into a cylinder, crimp the bottom shut, cut and fold over a flap for the top, secure it with a piece of wire, and hang it where squirrels can't reach it. And make sure that you don't leave any sharp wires protruding that may injure a bird.

The idea is to allow birds to peck small bits out of the peanuts, not carry whole nuts off. Peanuts offer a great, high-protein boost to winter-weary birds, and help insect-eaters like wrens, woodpeckers, and sometimes even sapsuckers make it through a frigid period, or when ice or deep snow make foraging extra challenging.

Peanuts can mold in hot or wet weather. Even in winter, if they sit in your feeder for more than a couple days, check for signs of mold or the darkening in color that can mean they've gone rancid. Offer only as many as the birds will eat in a few days in warm or wet weather, doling them out like the gold they are.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.

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  • I have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020