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.

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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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018