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 is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest by day. He's also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, and blogger.

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