Feeding Peanuts To Birds
Peanuts are one of the most popular foods to feed wild birds. They are packed with protein and fat and will attract tits, finches, jays, nuthatches and woodpeckers to your garden.
Peanuts are not actually nuts – they are legumes and a member of the bean family. Sometimes they may be sold as monkey nuts or ground nuts. Peanuts have been cultivated for thousands of years but prior to the 19th century they were only ever used as an animal feed. They are an annual herbaceous plant and although native to South America are now grown over many continents with China, India, the USA, Nigeria, and Indonesia the world’s major producers.
Peanuts Nutrition (per 100g)
Oils and fats
How to feed peanuts to birds
Whole peanuts in their shell will be popular with larger garden birds and a great way to encourage birds to forage for their food. Jays, jackdaws, crows, and magpies will all enjoy peanuts in their shells, but even smaller birds such as blue tits have been known to chip away at the shells to get at the nut inside.
Leave whole peanuts on a bird table or ground feeder or try stringing them on some strong thread and hang around the garden. You could also push whole peanuts into holes drilled into a log or branch to attract woodpeckers and nuthatches.
Crushed or kibbled peanuts will be enjoyed by smaller birds such as wrens or robins. They’ll be able to eat the small pieces quickly which will reduce the risk of predators such as cats and birds of prey pouncing on them as they feed. You can also add crushed peanuts to a suet fat cake to provide a nutritional treat for birds during the cold winter months.
You can buy specially designed peanut birds feeders which are made from steel mesh or wire with holes of about 6 mm so birds have to peck at the nuts and can only take small pieces. You will often find that peanut feeders are squirrel proof too as peanuts are one of squirrels’ favourite foods and they will take the entire supply you leave out for your garden birds given the chance.
Although peanuts are a simple way of giving your garden birds an all-round nutritious treat there are some precautions you should take:
Do not feed birds salted, flavoured, or roasted nuts. Birds are unable to process high quantities of salt and they may become very sick or even die.
During breeding season do not leave out whole peanuts as parents may feed them to their young chicks who could choke on them. Either avoid putting out peanuts altogether or crush them up into smaller pieces. You can also buy kibbled peanuts either as a straight food or incorporated into bird food mixes.
Only feed small quantities of peanuts at a time as if left for longer periods they can spoil and go mouldy which can cause respiratory infections in birds. As with all bird food make sure you clean up any mess under your bird feeders so you don’t attract rats and other vermin.
What is aflatoxin?
When peanuts are growing and during storage, they are susceptible to mould, in particular the fungus Aspergillus Flavus, which grows between the skin and the kernel. The fungus releases a poisonous toxin called aflatoxin which is a carcinogen that is harmful to both humans and birds.
In birds the toxin can act quickly even at trace levels causing devastating side effects and eventually death. In the 1960s about 100,000 turkey poults died near London after eating peanut meal that was contaminated with aflatoxin.
You should always buy peanuts from a reputable bird food supplier and ensure they are guaranteed to be free from aflatoxin.
Store bird peanuts in a sealed container to prevent moisture getting in and keep them in a cool place. Throw away any peanuts that show signs of mould and thoroughly clean and dry the containers they are stored in before replacing with fresh food.
Fill your bird feeders with just enough peanuts that your garden birds will eat in a couple of days. And make sure you practise good hygiene by washing and disinfecting your feeders at least once a week.
Peanut butter bird food
You can also put out peanut butter for your garden birds as an alternative way of feeding peanuts. Make sure it does not have any additives such as salt or sugar and do not use up old peanut butter that may have gone rancid. You can also buy peanut butter that has been specially formulated for wild birds.
Both smooth and crunchy peanut butter can be fed to the birds in your garden. Try smearing some on a tree trunk, mix into suet cakes or spreading on slices of fruit, pine cones or pieces of toast to make some hanging bird feeders.
Peanuts are one of the most versatile foods you can give to your garden birds and however you choose to serve them up you will soon be rewarded by plenty of species visiting your garden.