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Woodpeckers play an important role in keeping forests healthy by eating the parasitic ants, beetles, and other bugs that harm trees. However, insects are only a part of the woodpecker’s diet. These busy birds enjoy a variety of nuts and seeds. But what about legumes? Do woodpeckers eat peanuts?
Yes, woodpeckers eat peanuts. In fact, they’re a popular snack for many other birds, too! Offering peanuts alongside traditional birdseed is an effective way to bring woodpeckers to your backyard, so your valuable trees can benefit from these insect-loving birds.
Why are peanuts good for woodpeckers?
Insects make up roughly 75% of a woodpecker’s diet. The remaining percentage consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, and green plants (woodpeckers do not eat wood, that’s a common misconception). Woodpeckers are foragers, always on the lookout for their next meal. But the thing about foraging is that you never know where or when you’ll get your next meal. So woodpeckers need each meal to be as filling and nutrient-dense as possible. This is where peanuts come into play.
Peanuts may not give woodpeckers the quick energy that sugar-rich fruits do. And they’re no substitute for the insects that make up the bulk of a woodpecker’s diet. But woodpeckers often seek out peanuts because they’re chock full of proteins and fats that keep them full for long periods of time.
Woodpeckers often prefer yards where peanuts are available because they’re such a valuable source of calories. And creating a safe place for woodpeckers where peanuts are always on hand provides them with a sense of security that will make them regular visitors to your backyard. Plus, giving woodpeckers peanuts allows them to take a little break from pecking trees, a process that can actually contribute to brain damage — ouch!
When do woodpeckers like to eat peanuts?
Woodpeckers eat peanuts all year round. They just love them! So you’re bound to see more of these beauties in your yard when you offer peanuts. However, you may notice that woodpeckers prefer to eat peanuts more during some parts of the year than others. Let’s find out just why that is.
During the spring and early summer months, woodpeckers have plenty of different food sources to choose from. Berries, bugs, tender greens, there are a ton of foraging options. This is when their diet is at its most diverse. But, this is also when woodpeckers are laying eggs and raising hatchlings. Because they require more nutrition during this time, that makes it a great opportunity to set out some peanuts along with your regular bird seed.
As winter settles in, the woodpecker’s diet becomes restricted, often reduced to seeds, acorns, and the fruits of invasive species, like poison ivy. The limited quantities of these foods force woodpeckers to keep their eyes peeled for alternative food sources. Again, peanuts to the rescue! In the bleak winter landscape, peanuts can be a metaphorical oasis in the desert. So keeping some on hand when the days get shorter and colder will help keep your wood-pecking friends happy.
An important thing to remember: always use plain, unsalted peanuts to feed birds. Whether they’re human grade or specifically sold as bird food doesn’t really matter. Just be sure to avoid feeding any wildlife candied, salted, or other flavored varieties of peanuts, as these can be harmful to their health.
How can you use peanuts to attract woodpeckers?
Woodpeckers will eat peanuts whether they’ve been shelled or not. They aren’t the least bit picky. In fact, giving them unshelled peanuts is a great way to get more bang for your buck, because this keeps the birds busier for longer.
Now, there are many ways that you can use peanuts to attract woodpeckers. The easiest way is to just scatter them around. Often, that’s all that’s needed to get a woodpecker’s attention. Remember, woodpeckers are foragers. So tossing a handful of peanuts in your backyard will help encourage that instinct.
But, if you want to dress up your peanut display a little bit, then you can invest in a peanut feeder for your woodpeckers. Feeding woodpeckers with a peanut bird feeder gives them an interactive snack that helps encourage social activity and mental stimulation.
A fun DIY project is to take a pine cone, apple core, or toilet paper roll, coat the outside in peanut butter, then roll it in peanuts and other woodpecker favorites, like sunflower seeds. When you’re finished, simply hang it by a string from a tree or post for a fast and easy homemade peanut bird feeder.
Making your own suet with peanuts is a project that is a bit more labor-intensive, but it’s one that your backyard birds will thank you for. Simply heat a pound of lard in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add in ¼ cup of peanut butter (crunchy works best!), and ¼ cup of shelled peanuts. Stir until well-blended, then remove from heat, and pour into a cake pan lined with parchment paper to harden. Once cooled, you can cut your homemade suet into blocks that will fit into your suet feeders.
Commercial peanut suet blocks are also available and feature a variety of nuts, seeds, and fruits that woodpeckers enjoy. This is a perfect choice if you don’t want to worry about making your own suet, which, even though it can be fun, is pretty messy!
Are woodpeckers the only birds that eat peanuts?
When it comes to liking peanuts, woodpeckers are hardly in the minority. Peanuts are a popular snack choice for many birds, including ravens, nuthatches, grackles, juncos, cardinals, wrens, doves, and jays — some of which will actually weigh peanuts and choose the heaviest ones to eat!
Peanuts are a cost-effective way to bring an assortment of birds to your garden. Just keep in mind that your actions can have unintended consequences. You may be using peanuts to attract the local woodpeckers, but birds aren’t the only critters who like them.
Deer and squirrels are also big fans of peanuts. If your goal is to bring as much wildlife to your backyard as possible, this may not be a problem. But, if you want to prevent deer from nibbling on your flowers or squirrels from raiding your bird feeders, you may want to reconsider using peanuts to attract woodpeckers. Or, at least, make sure that the birds are the only ones who can get to the peanuts.
If you’re an avid birdwatcher trying to make your backyard a birding paradise, you can’t go wrong by serving peanuts. They’re a cheap and effective way to capture a woodpecker’s interest and to keep them coming back to your yard time and time again!