The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

A Guide to Feeding Birds With Peanuts

Last month, a New Jersey couple was taken to court for illegally feeding wildlife. The community’s environmental health specialist contended that birds didn’t eat peanuts, so it was a violation of the local code. But as anyone who’s ever put out peanuts at their bird feeder knows, many birds don’t just eat peanuts, they love peanuts.

Even though you might think peanuts are unhealthy, they’re actually really great for birds.

More About Peanuts

Peanuts, as we know from many quiz shows, are not actually nuts. Peanuts are in fact legumes (in the same vein as peas, soybeans and lentils). What makes these so appealing for birds is that they’re highly nutritious.

Peanuts are packed with high levels of fat to give birds energy and protein to help them grow. Aside from the fat and protein contents, peanuts contain potassium, iron, fiber and much more.

What Birds Are Attracted to Peanuts?

While you won’t find smaller birds chowing down the delicious legumes, many species love peanuts. Here’s a partial list of some of the types of birds that eat peanuts:

Jay eating peanuts. Taken by the Bird Photobooth.

Jay eating peanuts. Taken by the Bird Photobooth.

  • Blue Jays
  • Scrub Jays
  • Cardinals
  • Woodpeckers
  • Chickadees
  • Ravens
  • Doves
  • Nuthatches
  • Titmice
  • Crows
  • Grackles
  • Towhees
  • Juncos

How to Serve Peanuts to Birds

Raw vs. Roasted

There’s actually a debate on the best way to serve peanuts. Many people argue that the best way to serve them is natural—that is shelled and raw. The reason for this is that it’s what birds would eat in the wild. Others point out that raw peanuts could be harmful and contain trypsin inhibitors (which may cause kidney and pancreas damage) in birds.

To be safe, you should always serve roasted peanuts to birds. If you have some raw peanuts that you bought from a store, you can simply put them in the oven on about 350 for about 15 minutes.

Shelled vs. Unshelled

The next thing you have to decide is whether to serve them shelled or unshelled. Most birds can actually shell a peanut pretty easily, but there are some smaller birds that need to break them up and it takes some work. Serving either way is perfectly acceptable.

Salted vs. Unsalted

Unlike the previous to options, there’s no choice or debate here: Unsalted is the way to go. Similar to how foods high in salt are bad for us, they’re also bad for birds. Birds can’t process large amounts of salt in their diet and may suffer renal failure and other health issues. You should generally avoid giving any foods with salt to birds.

367519Ways to Offer Peanuts

Now that you have the peanuts and know the best way to serve them, it’s time to offer them up for birds. You can do this a number of ways. The easiest and simplest way is to scatter the peanuts on the ground or on a table. Birds will find the peanuts and eat them, but it can also be pretty messy.

The best types of feeder to put peanuts out on are open feeders like tray or platform feeders. These give larger birds better access to peanuts. You can also put them in a mesh feeder to prevent birds from taking the peanuts away.

Squirrel Treat

Before we end, we can’t talk about feeding peanuts to birds without discussing squirrels. The little critters absolutely love peanuts, so if you put them out for your birds, you can also expect to see them coming around and getting a piece of the action. Alternatively, many companies like Birds Choice make peanut feeders especially for squirrels you can put out to keep them satisfied.


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  1. jolene

    If the town SPECIALIST ( which is laughable)said that birds don’t eat peanuts , then what was his problem anyway ? The birds won’t eat it , the same as the laundry hanging out to dry in the breeze.
    What a number 1 Zero

  2. Linda Cornatzer

    Thank you for the information that I needed to feed birds peanuts.


    Thank you so much perfect all the information I needed to know thanks again

  4. angelica

    i just got a Red Fronted Amazon parrot but the person who sold him said hes favorite treats are peanuts salted peanuts, then he said thats the best way to get him to adjust to his new owner but arent salted peanuts bad i never gave any of my parrots salted peanuts unsure how bad this can be ?

    • Darlene

      I get salted peanuts at the dollar store being that they’re so cheap and rinse them off real good and let em air dry, there’s still a bit of salt taiste but just enough to keep them interested and not harmful at all. I’ve been giving them to Rocky Dawg the squirrel for 8 years now and just started to attract blue Jay’s who loves em, so now I just double up on what I put out and everyone’s full and happy 🐿🦅

  5. angelica

    i just got a Red Fronted Amazon parrot but the person who sold him said hes favorite treats are peanuts salted peanuts, then he said thats the best way to get him to adjust to his new owner but arent salted peanuts bad i never gave any of my parrots salted peanuts unsure how bad this can be now reading this info ill cut back slowly and give him pumpkin seeds or some other kind of nuts that he will love to eat instead of salted peanuts, the vets can be pricey and i would hate for my bird to go get sick cuz he dint get the proper care, thank for this important info .

  6. Erin

    The information about peanuts and squirrels and birds was great good ideas on how to feed them and what to feed them thank you

  7. I asked if wild birds can eat hazelnuts toasted or raw.

  8. Lea Johnson

    Can I wash the salt off salted peanuts and then feed them to the birds?

  9. Mary

    My neighbor feeds whole peanuts to Bluejays all the time. I know the birds try to break the shells by dropping them on our hard surface driveway and patio for the past four years. I have never (even once) picked up peanut shells from my yard only whole peanuts. Any suggestions I can pass along to my lonely widowed neighbor who has befriended and named the birds? (They eat from her hand). She is quiet elderly and has few friends and her family lives far away. I have no problems picking up the nuts. I thought about buying some raw nuts, roasting them to make the shells a little brittler and partially cracking them. Then I’d drop them off on one of our frequent visits. I’d appreciate any suggestions.

    • cindy

      this is likely an old post but buy roasted peanuts in the shell at local farm stores, 5 lb bag only a couple $$

  10. dave conrardy

    hello., I have been feeding my squirrels for about one month. I was shocked to see a titmouse place it beak in one, he looked around, and hoped onto one. then he flew off. the peanut was half as big as he was . go figure

  11. Sherry L Mason

    I have been feeding jays and squirrels roasted, unsalted in-the-shell peanuts for years. I have a small terra-cotta bowl attached to a tree and go out every morning and fill it to the top with peanuts. Everyone is waiting for their scheduled delivery. I noticed some jays will select a peanut and then put it back and grab a different one. It is like they are deciding which is the heavier or larger one. Sometimes it literally “rains” jays. So much fun to watch.

  12. Helenen

    I noticed that shelled peanuts go bad very quickly if it’s below 0, their color change…, is it safe to feed shelled peanuts to birds in winter?

    • Denise Palmer

      I go thru 2 pounds a week!!! No easy for these to go bad!

      • John Alibrando

        I go thu 2 pounds of unsalted Peanuts in the shell a day. It rains blue jays for 12 hours.

        • Sharon

          Yep same here, maybe even more for me. I just chg from whole peanuts to peanut halves. No w traffic has slowed don’t. Don’t know why.

  13. Jane Schockemoehl

    I hang a squirrel proof feeder filled with shelled peanuts! I can’t get blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers to feed there as there are always loud crows, blackbirds and grackles at the feeder. I have tried everything I know of to get rid of these nasty birds, but they always come back. Help! Any suggestions on what to do next? Your input is appreciated! Thank you!

    • wen

      not very nice. any bird a good bird.

    • John O

      Learn to love crows! Corvids are the smartest birds on the planet….

      • Denise Palmer

        Sorry, have to pass on loving the crows! No thank you!

    • Claire Nackoney

      What brand of bird feeder do you have? I am looking for one that is squirrel proof as I hang my feeders from tree branches and it has been challenging to keep squirrels away from them.

  14. Sheila R Maury

    I live on the CO prairie and I have one lone squirrel. I have been putting out peanuts for the lonesome little squirrel along with some other purchased squirrel mixture and noticed that the birds get excited when I put out the squirrel’s food. The birds also get their special food but I am afraid that they might get in a food fight someday.

  15. Claire Nackoney

    Although I like the idea of having a peanut feeder exclusively for squirrels, my experience has been that they are greedy and will also feed at the bird feeders. They want it all 🙂

    • Denise Palmer

      I had a squirrel who always came when I fed the blue jays their peanuts. This squirrel became my little busdy! I would go out and yell here buddy and he would come down out of the tree, and eat his shelled peanuts or peanut butter bird feed sandwich. He would climb on me. I even brought him on the house when it was cold out. He brought his “family” down one day to meet me. None of them were afraid of me. It’s like he told them this woman is ok! He died a few years ago. But I kept him happy for over 10 years!

  16. Denise Palmer

    We have lived in our house for over 25 years and I have fed the blue jays all this time. I have raised family after family of these birds. I have one we call velociraptor, cause he is huge! If I forget to feed them which is rarely, trust me they let me know. They squak and squak til I am running to the windows with the peanuts. They only like peanuts in the morning though. When we go on vacation, they know! They got a bucket of peanuts on the grill for the days we are gone!

  17. Urban Retiree

    I wanted to feed the squirrels I saw in Buena Vista Park in San Francisco where I live. It’s a tree covered small park, 36 acres on the top of a steep mountain surrounded by the city. I could only find peanuts on my way. So I bought what they had, roasted, but unsalted. The squirrels came first and ate a few and then the scrub jays and a lone stellar Jay. The scrubs cleaned up half a pound of peanuts. They are faster and braver than the squirrels. And they are quicker and pushier than the stellar jay. They stashed most of the shelled peanuts I offered and then came back for more. Since I’m only there once a week and don’t offer more than half a pound of nuts I think I shouldn’t be bad for their natural ecology. I don’t want to feed a generation and then suddenly I’m not there any more. But it is a lot of fun to watch them and the squirrels eating them. Well actually I’ve never seen a bird eat them. They just grab the peanuts and fly off. The squirrels here may be more cautious because we have coyotes and they mainly dine I hear on the rodents, including the squirrels. And we have a constant stream of red-tailed hawks flying over the city and I’m sure they would love a plump squirrel. But I’ve only seen them eating pigeons. If we didn’t have hordes of urban pigeons the hawks would have a hard time finding a meal.

  18. Thankyou ,,that was very helpful …I use the same sort of feeders so now I know its ok for the Doves,,,!!!! and others .

  19. Momin Shah

    I accidently fed my eclectus parrot salted roasted peanuts what do I do? (five peanuts in total)

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