Want to Make Your Wild Birds Happy? Feed Them Nuts!

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are just one of the many birds that enjoy nuts.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are just one of the many birds that enjoy nuts. | Source

Best Nuts to Feed Wild Birds

Local birds as well as those ‘just passing through’ on their migratory journeys will greatly benefit from various nuts. The healthy oils keep flight feathers in excellent condition. And for migrants, the extra energy boost helps fuel their journeys southward.

White-Breasted Nuthatch waiting its turn at the nut feeder.
White-Breasted Nuthatch waiting its turn at the nut feeder. | Source

Best Nuts to Feed Wild Birds:

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Peanuts
  • Acorns
  • Hickory Nuts
  • Hazel Nuts
  • Beechnuts
  • Pistachio Nuts
  • Chunky Peanut Butter* (see *About Feeding Peanut Butter to Wild Birds below)

My slap chopper is great for making short work of nuts!
My slap chopper is great for making short work of nuts! | Source

Slap Chop Those Nuts!

Unsalted is best because most birds cannot digest or assimilate large amounts of salt.

Small birds that I like to call ‘little beaks’, which include Chickadees, Titmice, Sparrows, Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers, enjoy bits and pieces of nuts, as well as peanut butter and other nut butters*.

To chop up the nuts into small bits, I use a ‘slap-chopper’ device. It works very well to make short work of an otherwise tedious task. Plus, there’s something about slapping that chopper that helps relieve tension!

Store Nuts In a Cool, Dry Place

Alternatively, you can buy nuts already chopped into small pieces. They are more expensive, but you can usually find them on sale around the holidays. Also, whole nuts can be bought in bulk at a cheaper rate.

Store them in a dry sealed container to keep oils from becoming rancid; and to keep curious critters from eating them before the birds get a chance. I use a clean galvanized can with a secure lid (different sizes are available in big box hardware and discount stores), and I store it in my unheated garage.

I sometimes crack the nut shells for my birds, just to help them access the nuts faster.
I sometimes crack the nut shells for my birds, just to help them access the nuts faster. | Source
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker on her favorite nut-shucking tree.
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker on her favorite nut-shucking tree. | Source

Crack the Nut Shells to Make It Easier For Your Birds

Larger birds like Hairy Woodpeckers and Blue Jays enjoy shelled peanuts and other nuts. I sometimes crack the peanut shells just by squeezing several of them together in my hand; I ‘get them started’ so the birds can carry off their treasures like trophies, and still be able to open them easily.


My red-bellied woodpeckers are especially fond of picking out the whole unshelled peanuts or other nuts, and flying to a nearby oak tree. There they wedge the nut between pieces of bark and bang on the shell, breaking off pieces as they work towards the oil-rich center.

Blue Jays are very fond of peanuts.
Blue Jays are very fond of peanuts. | Source

Do You Feed Nuts to Your Birds?

  • Yes, I enjoy watching them open the nuts.
  • No, too many squirrels around!
  • Not yet, but maybe I'll give this a try.
See results without voting

Blue Jays Hide and Then Seek Nuts

Research has shown that blue jays hide the nuts they find just like squirrels. They also have excellent memories, so they can retrieve the nuts when tummies rumble.

Nut box for squirrels
Nut box for squirrels | Source
This little guy I like to call Persistent Q. Squirrel.
This little guy I like to call Persistent Q. Squirrel. | Source

Squirrels Love Nuts, Too

Speaking of squirrels, these critters are major nut lovers in search of a free meal, courtesy of the birds. In order to keep them away from the treats intended for my feathered friends, I give the squirrels a feeder of their own.

A nut box will hold quite a few whole unshelled peanuts; the squirrel has to figure out how to access the contents. Industrious and clever, they soon puzzle it out and find their treats. The top of the box shuts each time, so it does require patience and focus on the task at hand.

While my bushy-tailed rodents are busy at their own nut feeder, the birds are free to eat their nuts without interruption.

You will find it hard not to chuckle at the persistent squirrel in Bryson Syliboy's short video that follows. Listen to all the vocalizations this cute little squirrel makes as it works to break into the nut!

Cute Squirrel Video

Grackles are beautiful birds, but they can be feeder hogs.
Grackles are beautiful birds, but they can be feeder hogs. | Source

More Perks to Feeding Nuts to Birds

The usual feeder hogs don’t seem to gravitate to that particular snack as much as they do to sunflower seeds. Grackles, for instance, have rather soft beaks. Nuts are off their menu for that reason. Pigeons and doves don’t open unshelled nuts, but they do like nutmeats and kernels.

Wild Turkeys are fascination birds. Learn more about their preferred habitats, food and nesting behaviors:

Fun Questions and Answers About Wild Turkeys

Save acorns in the fall for foraging birds like turkeys.
Save acorns in the fall for foraging birds like turkeys. | Source

Gather and Save Acorns

If you have mature oak trees as I do, you can gather acorns in late summer and early fall to feed your wild birds when snow covers the ground.

Foraging birds like turkeys will enjoy cracked or whole acorns, especially when they no longer have access to bare ground. I scatter them right on top of the snow


**Note: it is best to store acorns in a dry, cool place. Be sure the nuts are dry before storing them, otherwise they may mold and will be useless as food.

Peanut Feeder Wreath
Peanut Feeder Wreath | Source
Mesh-type Nut Feeder works well for chopped nuts and nutmeats.
Mesh-type Nut Feeder works well for chopped nuts and nutmeats. | Source

Best Nut Feeders

I have found the best way to feed nuts to birds is to add them to a flat surface, a tray feeder, or to a platform feeder. There are also specialty feeders just for serving whole nuts to your birds.

One that I particularly like is a wire wreath into which you can add whole unshelled peanuts. I enjoy watching the woodpeckers work at the nuts while perched on the side of the wreath. Sometimes they peck away at a certain peanut, and other times they pull the whole nut out and fly off with it.

There are rectangular, round and square feeders made with wire mesh that have large enough holes to accommodate different nutmeats, and smaller nuts like peanut halves.

Tube feeders with mesh made just for nutmeats are available as well.

Nuts and Feeders

Nuts Birds Enjoy
Nut Feeder to Use
Whole Peanuts
Tray Feeder or Peanut Wreath
Acorns
Best if Scattered on Top of Snow
Shelled or Chopped Nuts and Nutmeats
Mesh Feeders, Wooden or Tube Style
Whole Walnuts, Hazel Nuts, Etc.
Platform or Tray Feeder

Some Disadvantages to Feeding Nuts

Keep in mind that offering nuts to birds comes with some disadvantages. For one thing, shells can accumulate under your feeder and make a mess. It’s an easy task, though, to rake the shells into a pile and add them to a compost heap; or use a leaf vacuum to clean up the area.

  • Remember that nuts will leave oily residue when they come in contact with decks, porch floors and railings, or patio furniture. Additionally, it would be wise to take note of the flight paths of birds to and from your feeders. You don’t want a clothesline full of clean sheets to be plastered! So hang your nut and seed feeders accordingly.
  • Also, I would not recommend offering nuts in the spring or summertime. First of all, hot sun and warmer temperatures will tend to make the oils go rancid. Secondly, young nestlings and fledglings should not be fed pieces of nutmeats that have sharp edges, and might irritate or lodge in their tiny throats.

Normally, the baby birds will be fed insects by their parents because they need the protein to grow quickly and develop strong flight muscles. It isn’t very likely they would even try nuts at that age. But it is better to be safe than sorry. Save the nutty treasures for colder months, and you can’t go wrong.

Peanut Butter is okay to give to wild birds.
Peanut Butter is okay to give to wild birds. | Source

*About Feeding Peanut Butter to Wild Birds

There are 2 distinct schools of thought about feeding peanut butter to birds. One absolutely forbids its use because the idea is that peanut butter will stick to their throats and choke them.

However, I belong to the group that advocates feeding chunky peanut butter to birds. In my almost 40 years of observing and feeding wild birds, I have found that each bird takes a tiny amount of peanut butter and then retreats to a branch. There they poke their treasure in between pieces of bark. That way they can nip tiny bits of it with their beaks. I have never seen a bird take a large glob, nor have I ever observed any bird choking or struggling to ingest this substance.

Birds are much smarter than most people think. But if you are still wary of feeding peanut butter to your birds, by all means stir in some cornmeal. Both corn meal and peanut butter are nutritious and readily taken by many backyard birds.

Pumpkin and apple butters are loved by birds.
Pumpkin and apple butters are loved by birds. | Source

Fruit & Nut Butters for Birds

Besides peanut butter, I have offered almond butter, and apple butters to my avian visitors. My suet log makes a great place to present these food sources to them. Sometimes I mix and match a variety of butters in different holes in the log. Titmice seem to like the apple butter and peanut butter the best, while the nuthatches enjoy almond, peanut and pumpkin butters. It’s fun to experiment and find out which bird prefers what food.

Suet logs are great for serving nut and fruit butters to birds.
Suet logs are great for serving nut and fruit butters to birds. | Source

Use a Suet Log for Serving Fruit & Nut Butters

Suet logs are just one way to serve these foods. Another is to slather the nut butter on a pine cone that has a wire hanger. To make the hanger, use wire cutters to snip a 12” length of flexible wire, and wind one end around the top scales of the pine cone. Secure by twisting the end. Then make a loop on the other end of the wire that will be large enough to fit over a tree branch.

Wrap wire around top scales of pine cone and secure a hanging loop by twisting wire ends together.
Wrap wire around top scales of pine cone and secure a hanging loop by twisting wire ends together. | Source

Slather Nut or Fruit Butters Onto Pine Cones

As a treat during the wintertime, I often hang several pine cones over different pine or shrub branches. Both the birds and the squirrels enjoy finding these nutritious gifts. Take care that you position your pine cones and nut butter feeders so that the oils do not come in contact with your outdoor furniture or deck or patio wood. The oils will be very hard to remove from those surfaces.

Keep Birds Healthy By Feeding Them Nuts

Feeding oil-rich nuts to birds in cold months can greatly improve their overall health and survival rate. Nuts provide energy, and extra fat for insurance against frigid winter temperatures. Make your wild birds very happy by adding a variety of nuts and/or nut butters to your bird feeding menu. Don’t be surprised if you attract wild birds you may never have seen before!

Grandma Pearl a/k/a Connie Smith
Grandma Pearl a/k/a Connie Smith

'You can create yard and garden habitats that Help Birds Survive and Thrive'

Read more by visiting grandmapearl.hubpages.com; and

Join me at Rusticbarnwoodbirdhouses to discover more about wildlife in general, and birds in particular.

More by this Author


Which Kinds of Nuts Do Your Birds Enjoy? 32 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Hey Connie! I hope this finds you well.

I did not know that about peanut butter. Thanks for the information. We feed nuts regularly to our birds....our birds...that's how we think of our little family of foragers. They are a joy to watch, and I have you to thank for some great suggestions over the past few months. Well done my friend; keep those ideas coming.

bill


purl3agony profile image

purl3agony 3 years ago from USA

Another great bird-loving hub :) I've hesitated feeding nuts to our birds because I'm afraid it will attract every squirrel in a 5 mile radius to our yard (lol). But I really love that wreath feeder that you have. Did you buy it or make it?

Thanks for sharing your amazing knowledge. Voted up!


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Pearl, I don't have to worry about snow here, but it does get cold. I have mature oak trees all around my property, so there are plenty of acorns to go around for the birds and the squirrels.

There are several squirrels that come into my yard who have learned to accept my presence and know I won't try to hurt them. One in particular has developed a taste for dry cat food. I have two outdoor cats that think they belong to me (probably because I feed them!). When they've finished eating, I put their bowls up on my bistro on my front porch so the ants don't help themselves. This little guy (we have gray squirrels in Central Florida) will come up onto my bistro and eat the leftover cat food! It's funny to watch.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

This is great information pearl, I never realised that birds could eat crunchy peanut butter, I know the squirrels love it! lol! and I love the slap chopper device, that is such a good idea! voted up, nell


sallybea profile image

sallybea 3 years ago from Norfolk

Great Hub with some lovely images. My birds love wild bird seed, pea-nuts and Niger seed, the latter attracts Goldfinch to our garden. Thanks for sharing.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

This is a wonderful report, Pearl, one indicative of your having spent hours of observation and internal chronicling of the habits of birds and squirrels. For example, I like how you trusted your own observations regarding the careful and tedious consumption of peanut butter by your avian friends.

As bdegiulio is to raptors, so are you to the little feathered wild birds. Congratulations on another masterpiece about Mother Nature's gifts of friendship to us.

Aloha!

~Joe


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Another great hub Pearl combined with just the right photos.Your love of nature's treasures always so apparent and here's to many many more for along time to come. Voted up plus shared onto A Brand New Dawn.

Enjoy your day and lots of love from Wales my dear friend.

Eddy.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I never knew birds ate nuts..shows you how much I know about birds. I will remember this when feeding birds.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Carol, yes, our birds are nuts about nuts! I just have a blast watching them open the shells.

Have an awesome day, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Dear Eddy, thank you so much for your kind words, and for sharing this article with your FB friends. Right now I am sitting outside on this beautiful sunny autumn day. I'm surrounded by gorgeous gold, red, orange and copper colored leaves; and I am hearing all my birds chirping and chattering happily. What could be better than that?!

I wish you sunny, colorful skies my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Joe, it's always such a pleasure when you stop by! You are right about my many hours of observations, but they are some of the best hours I have spent on this Earth. I know being outside and enjoying all that Nature has to offer keeps me grounded, and peaceful.

Your comments never fail to leave me smiling, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

sallybea, I'm so pleased that you stopped by for a visit! You know how much your birds enjoy peanuts, I'm sure. Right now I am watching a nuthatch pull one out of the peanut wreath, and it just flew off to a nearby tree branch for the grand opening! It's a hoot to watch the birds find these nutritious treasures. Thanks for your comments, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Nell, so great to see your smiling face! Peanut butter is definitely one of the main attractions around here for my bird gang. And I have the best time with that slap chopper, which I ordered online, by the way. If my husband is driving me nuts (no pun intended), out comes the old slap chopper and I feel better!

Have a great day, and thanks for your comments and vote, my friend ;)Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi bravewarrior! My oak trees are dropping acorns like crazy the last couple of weeks. Usually they are all done by now, so I'm thinking that winter may be delayed a bit this year; and that would be great! Squirrels can become very friendly. When we lived in an apartment, I used to hand feed a couple of squirrels. It didn't take them long to get used to me, and it was a lot of fun when they gently took the peanut from my hand and began to carefully open it. We have mostly grey squirrels here, too. But, occasionally, a little red one will try to muscle his way in. Down the road from here is as family of jet black squirrels--I'm secretly hoping they will make their way up to my neck of the woods, because they are so beautiful.

I always so enjoy your visits, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Billy, I'm so glad you have had great success with some of my birding ideas--that's truly awesome! Rest assured, I have lots more things to share.

My autumn trees are so pretty right now that I am working at my picnic table outside just to be able to hear my birds, see the leaves and smell the fresh air. There is a bit of a nip, but for the most part our weather has remained more than seasonal. I take it in as often as possible, for soon it will give way to that cold, white stuff!

Enjoy your day, my friend--the weekend is coming ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi purl3agony! Thank you for your lovely comments. I know what you mean about attracting squirrels, but they can be so cute!

The wreath was a purchase from amazon.com and it has proven to be one of my better ones. I have yet to see a squirrel try to climb onto it, but the birds found it soon enough! It is so much fun to watch them land on it and then either take a peanut, or work at opening one as they perch on the wreath. I'm thinking you will like this wreath as much as I do.

Thank you so much for the visit and the vote, my friend ;) Pearl


Diana Lee profile image

Diana Lee 3 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

I love this hub. My grandmother got me interested in feeding wild birds at an early age. She would often spread peanut butter on a slice of toast and sprinkle it with seeds. The birds love it. Voted up.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Diana Lee, We have a lot in common! My grandmother started me feeding birds when I was very young. She didn't always have money for bird seed, so she improvised with bread and donuts she made herself. I'm so pleased you liked this article, and that you stopped by to visit. I enjoyed reading your comment; and thank you so much for the vote. It is very gratefully received ;) Pearl


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Good work, Connie! All our little ones deserve all the help that they can get in the upcoming winter.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thanks Deb! I agree, when winter comes knocking, it's time to roll out the red carpet for our little feathered guys. They work so hard to keep us entertained and to fill our lives with beauty, it's the least we can do for them! Everybody deserves nutritious food ;) Connie


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Wonderful hub full of advice on feeding these darling backyard friends. I like to buy the jays their own bag of raw, unsalted peanuts and watch them descend, pleased and noisy. Your how-tos on pinecones, suet logs, peanut butter and fruit butter is very helpful. Shared, voted up and more.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

FlourishAnyway, thank you so much for your kind words. I really enjoyed reading your comment about feeding the blue jays. They do adore peanuts in the shell for sure!

It has turned quite chilly here, so the suet and peanut butter logs have had many visitors since I hung them out the first of the week.

I can tell you are as passionate about your backyard feathered visitors as I am. Here's to keeping them very happy! And thank you so much for the share and votes--they are all very much appreciated ;) Pearl


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 3 years ago from USA

I'm happy to see that you added not to put the nuts near the deck. I have my bird feeders hanging there. I think I'll try one of our smaller trees. I loved your article and will pin it.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Barbara Kay, I'm pleased you found this article helpful. You should have good luck using smaller trees for your feeders. The branches don't usually support squirrels if you have a problem with them. And thanks so much for the pin!

It was a pleasure to read your comments ;) Pearl


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi This is so full of information I did not know. You are amazing!!

I live in Florida so our birds really do not have too much problem finding food in the winter but I know they will like some of these treats. Thanks for sharing.

Shared, pinned, voted up++++

Angels are on the way to you this evening. ps


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

pstraubie, so nice to see you! You may be seeing some migratory song birds in your neck of the woods this time of year. They also love to find those nutritious nuts. I'm so pleased you found this article useful. And thank you for your awesome votes, share and pin; but most of all, thank you for your generous gift of Angels! What would we do without them?!

I hope you have a warm and pleasant day ;) Pearl


Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

What a great article! Thanks for sharing all of this information with us. It makes me want to feed the birds right now.

I think it's great to give our feathered friends something to eat during the cold days of the year, when food is harder to find and they need energy.

I have fed squirrels and Blue-Jays peanuts before. I bring peanuts with me whenever I got to Wickham Park in Manchester, CT, and they love them. I enjoy watching them. The birds are often so eager for them that they'll swoop down and catch them in mid-air.

Voted up, shared, and pinned.

Thanks for sharing this with us, and have a great day!

~ Kathryn


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

You have to admit, that darn squirrel (in the video) is adorable. Not so adorable however when they're stealing the bird's food. I've tried squirrel feeders but they like the bird feeders so much better.

You certainly keep an eye on your feathery neighbors. Thanks for sharing all the good information.

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and pinned.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Mary, I'm glad you enjoyed that crazy little squirrel. Just like chipmunks they look and act so adorable, until they hit the bird feeders! Thanks so much for the votes and pin, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Kathryn! You appreciate the antics of birds and squirrels just as I do. It's so much fun to watch them, and to know you're helping them to survive the coldest months. I thank you for votes, shares and pin, and especially for your great comments! I hope you have a lovely day ;) Pearl


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Awesome ideas for feeding our feathered friends. I think I will save some acorns for them for next year .Thanks!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi rebeccamealey! I'm pleased you enjoyed these ideas for feeding nuts to birds. Thanks so much for your comments, and for stopping by ;) Pearl

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