Nuts are a bird superfood, but before birders go crazy offering different nuts to backyard birds, it is important to understand why nuts are nutritious for birds, which nuts are best and how to offer them safely.
Why Nuts Are Great for Birds
Nuts are a quick, easy food to add to backyard feeders – easy to store, relatively clean and low-mess and they stay fresh for a long time. But even while they are a great option for backyard birders, nuts are even better for backyard birds.
- Nuts are high in fat and calories to provide superior energy, especially during migration or in fall and winter when temperatures are falling and birds need to build up fat stores or use more energy to keep warm.
- Whole nuts, in the shell or already shelled, are firm and easy for birds to cache, allowing resident winter birds to accumulate healthy, nutritious food stores they can revisit when other food sources are scarce.
- When birds bury nuts from native trees and bushes but do not return to that exact food cache, the nuts are naturally reseeded and likely to germinate and grow. This restores habitat and provides additional food for future birds.
Wild Birds Go Nuts for Nuts
While any nuts can be useful for birds, the very best nuts are the types birds are naturally accustomed to eating in the wild. Different types of birds have individual nut preferences based on nut size and hardness when compared to the bird’s bill strength and mouth size, but any nut-loving bird may sample suitable nuts. The best nuts to offer birds include…
- Hickory nuts
- Pine nuts
Birds That Eat Nuts
Many different birds will try nuts at backyard bird feeders, depending on how the nuts are offered. When large, whole nuts are offered in the shell, they often attract…
- Magpies, jays and other corvids with strong, sturdy bills
- Woodpeckers that will happily crack even thick nut shells
- Turkeys, ducks and other large birds that can eat nuts whole
When nuts are shelled or offered in small pieces, smaller nut-loving birds will flock to the buffet. Breaking the nuts up makes them easier for birds with smaller bills to enjoy them, including…
Even more unusual birds will sample nuts, especially when the nuts are easily accessible or offered with a range of other foods. Robins, juncos and cardinals are all known to snack on nuts occasionally.
Feeding Nuts to Backyard Birds
Offering nuts to backyard birds can be as easy as tossing a handful of nuts onto the ground, patio or deck, or adding a few nuts to a dish or platform feeder. Taking a few extra steps, however, and having proper consideration for the most nutritious options for birds, can make nuts an even better bird feeding option.
- Nuts can be offered whole, shelled, in pieces or even as nut butters. Offering more than just one form of nuts can attract both large and small birds that enjoy these treats.
- Offer nuts in specialized nut bird feeders with large holes for easy access, or opt for birdseed mixes with nuts in the blend. Nuts can also be found in many suet blends and seed cakes.
- Only offer raw or roasted nuts, not nuts that are salted, seasoned or flavored. Added flavorings can be unhealthy for birds and may attract unwanted wildlife pests.
- Take steps to protect nut feeders from squirrels, raccoons and other animals that may also have hearty appetites, or limit the nuts offered each day to just enough for the birds to eat.
- Consider planting nut-bearing trees or bushes in your yard for a natural, renewable food source, as well as doubling as good shelter birds can use even if the nuts aren’t mature.
Nuts can be one of the best foods at your backyard feeders, and if you offer the right nuts in the right way, you’ll go nuts for all the birds that take advantage of the treat.