Any bird enthusiast would agree that cardinals can be a striking addition to their backyard. Not only do these birds have a stunningly vibrant plumage, but they’re also non-migratory in nature, which means that you can find them in your backyard all year round. But is attracting these birdies to your feeders an easy job? Well, if you’re filling your feeders with the right food, it certainly is. What if you put peanuts in a bird feeder? Do cardinals like peanuts. Let’s find out.
So, do cardinals eat peanuts? Yes, cardinals love eating peanuts. Peanuts are among the top choices of foods you can use to attract them. Cardinals can eat both unshelled as well as shelled peanuts easily. Moreover, many birders have noticed that these birds can eat peanut butter as well.
As most of you might already know, cardinals are, in general, not very picky about their food and will readily eat almost any seed, fruit, or insect that you have to offer.
However, there are some foods that are more likely to catch their attention than others, and peanuts are one of them. In this article, we will talk about everything you need to know about feeding peanuts to the cardinals in your backyard.
Are peanuts healthy for cardinals?
We’ve already established above that the cardinals love eating peanuts and would never turn down an opportunity to munch on them. But are peanuts beneficial for their health? Do these birdies gain anything from eating them, or are these simply filling their bellies? That’s what we are going to find out in this section.
Before we talk about the effect of peanuts on the cardinals’ health, let’s first explore the nutritional value of these legumes. The nutritional table of peanuts given below will help you with exactly that. Take a look:
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.181 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.038 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||3.421 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)||0.501 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.099 mg|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||5 mcg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folates)||68 mcg|
|Calcium, Ca||26 mg|
|Iron, Fe||1.3 mg|
|Magnesium, Mg||48 mg|
|Copper, Cu||0.324 mg|
|Manganese, Mn||0.548 mg|
|Phosphorus, P||107 mg|
|Potassium, K||200 mg|
|Selenium, Se||2 mcg|
|Zinc, Zn||0.93 mg|
|Dietary fibers||2.4 g|
Serving size: 100 grams
As you can see in the table, peanuts contain a surprising number of micro as well as macronutrients and can safely be declared as nutritious foods.
Now, while we can’t tell exactly which vitamin and mineral can help the cardinals in what way, we can agree that all of them are good for their health. Other than that, the following are two specific characteristics of peanuts that are particularly beneficial to the cardinals.
Peanuts can maintain the vibrance of the male northern cardinals’ plumage
All of you must have noticed how the male northern cardinals are covered in a gorgeous shade of red. But what some of you might not know is that these birds get their coloration from three compounds (melanin, carotenoids, and porphyrins), present in the food they eat. Peanuts contain two carotenoids: lutein and beta-carotene, which can promote their healthy coloration.
Peanuts can keep cardinals warm during winters
Because the cardinals are non-migratory and stay in their breeding grounds throughout the year, they need a high-protein diet to protect them from harsh winters. Peanuts have a high amount of protein and can, thus, help them in staying warm in these months.
Keeping all these factors in mind, it would be safe to say that peanuts are indeed a healthy food for the cardinals and can be offered to them throughout the year.
Shelled or unshelled peanuts: which ones are better for the cardinals?
When it comes to feeding peanuts to the wild birds that venture into your backyard, it makes sense to offer them unshelled peanuts. It is because these birds are used to shelling peanuts on their own and wouldn’t mind doing so.
In fact, some of them (most woodpecker species) even prefer unshelled peanuts to the shelled ones. However, because it takes the smaller birds like chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches some time to shell the peanuts on their own, some birders offer them shelled peanuts for convenience.
What about the cardinals? Will they enjoy shelled or unshelled peanuts more? Cardinals are considerably larger than the chickadees and nuthatches and will have no trouble shelling the peanuts on their own. So, both shelled, as well as unshelled peanuts will work equally well for them.
Can you feed roasted peanuts to cardinals?
Many birders have different opinions about feeding raw or roasted peanuts to the backyard birds.
While some believe that feeding them raw peanuts is the best alternative, others argue that they might contain trypsin inhibitors, which could damage the pancreas and kidneys of these birds.
As a preventive measure, we’d recommend you roast the store-bought peanuts a little before you serve them to the cardinals.
Can you feed salted peanuts to cardinals?
Just like humans, birds also need only a tiny amount of sodium in their diet, which is probably met by their diet in the wild. If you add more salt to their diet, it could lead to renal failure and other health problems in their body. Therefore, it is always recommended to feed them unsalted foods, including peanuts.
Is it safe for baby cardinals to eat peanuts?
While peanuts are not outright unhealthy for the baby cardinals, they are also not the ideal food for them. Wondering why? We’ll tell you. When the baby cardinals are growing up, they need a large amount of animal-based protein to promote the healthy growth and development of their body.
Plant-based protein like peanuts is not going to do them any good at this stage. Therefore, it is best to avoid feeding these fledglings peanuts.
Will cardinals eat peanut butter?
Are you wondering whether it would be a good idea to feed peanut butter to the cardinals? Let us put you out of your dilemma by telling you that they enjoy eating peanut butter as much as peanuts, if not more.
Now, if you’re planning on feeding peanut butter to the cardinals in your backyard, there’s one thing you should keep in mind. Although we’d ideally recommend you to make your own peanut butter for offering them, we understand that it might not be possible for everyone.
Therefore, we’re asking you to go for the most organic peanut butter you can find in the market, with the least number of additives and preservatives. Also, these birds prefer crunchy peanut butter to creamy ones, so get them the former.
Using peanut butter to offer the cardinals summer suet
All of you must already know this, but suet is a mix of animal fat with other foods that the backyard birds like (corn, seeds, nuts, etc.). It is an excellent source of nutrition for the birdies during winter when they struggle due to food shortages.
Did you know that you could use peanut butter to make summer suet for the cardinals? Many birders have tried it and claimed it to be very popular among their backyard birds.
This suet is incredibly easy to make; all you need to do is to mix one part of peanut butter with five parts of cornmeal and refrigerate it. Your summer suet is now ready to be served.
What else do cardinals like to eat?
While peanuts are tasty treats that can lure the cardinals to your yard, there are other foods that you can also use to attract them. These birdies have quite a diverse diet and are highly fond of the following:
Seeds: black oil sunflower seeds, squash seeds, safflower seeds, muskmelon seeds, pumpkin seeds (unhusked), ragweed seeds, boxelder maple tree seeds
Insects: beetles, ants, locusts, snails, flies (sawflies, butterflies, dragonflies), moths, centipedes, cicadas, caterpillars, hoppers (grasshoppers, leafhoppers, treehoppers), katydids, spiders, mealworms
Fruits: plum, raisin, apples, crabapples, cherries, oranges, bananas, grapes, pears
Nuts: walnuts, cashews, almonds
Berries: mulberries, blackberries, elderberries, serviceberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
Other backyard birds that eat peanuts
When you’re filling your bird feeder with peanuts hoping to attract the cardinals, there are other peanut-loving backyard birds that you can also expect in your yard. Following is the list of backyard birds that are commonly found in the United States that enjoy eating peanuts. Take a look:
- Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
- Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Dryobates scalaris)
- Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
- Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)
- American Crow (Corvus brachyrynchos)
- Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile articapillus)
- Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
- Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
- California Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica)
- Stellar’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
- Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)
- Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)
- White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
- Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)
- Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
- European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Let’s revisit our initial question: do cardinals eat peanuts? Yes, they do. In fact, these birds are seen eating peanuts lovingly. Peanuts are not only enjoyed by them but also offer them several health benefits. You can certainly use them to draw these attractive birds to your feeders.
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