Do Cardinals Eat Peanuts




Do Cardinals Eat Peanuts 1

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If you’ve ever wondered what cardinals like to eat, you may be surprised to learn that peanuts are one of their top choices. These vibrant birds not only enjoy dining on peanuts, but they can also eat them in both shelled and unshelled forms. Not only are peanuts a tasty treat for cardinals, but they also provide them with important nutrients that contribute to their overall health. Whether they are roasted or unsalted, cardinals gladly indulge in peanuts. However, it’s worth noting that baby cardinals require a diet rich in animal-based protein, so it’s not recommended to feed them peanuts at a young age. If you’re looking to attract cardinals to your backyard, providing a variety of food options such as seeds, insects, fruits, nuts, and berries will surely make them feel welcome. Additionally, you’ll find that other backyard birds, including Northern Flickers, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Jays, Nuthatches, Doves, and Starlings, also enjoy the tasty goodness of peanuts. So, why not enhance your bird-watching experience by offering these delightful birds their favorite snack?

Can Cardinals Eat Peanuts?

Cardinals, with their vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest, are a common sight in many backyards across North America. These beautiful birds are known for their varied diet, which includes a wide range of foods such as seeds, insects, fruits, nuts, and berries. One food that Cardinals particularly love is peanuts. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of feeding peanuts to Cardinals, including their preference for different types of peanuts, the benefits of peanuts in their diet, and other birds that also enjoy this treat.

Cardinals’ Love for Peanuts

Cardinals have a strong affinity for peanuts and often seek them out when foraging for food. Peanuts provide Cardinals with a high-energy snack that is packed with essential nutrients, making them a valuable addition to their diet. While Cardinals have been known to eat both unshelled and shelled peanuts, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when feeding them these treats.

Eating Unshelled Peanuts

Cardinals have strong beaks that are well-suited for cracking open the shells of unshelled peanuts. Feeding Cardinals unshelled peanuts can provide them with natural enrichment as they work to extract the tasty kernel inside. However, it’s important to ensure that the peanuts are fresh and of good quality, as stale or moldy peanuts can be harmful to the birds’ health. Additionally, it’s recommended to offer unshelled peanuts in a feeder or tray to prevent them from getting contaminated by dirt or water.

Eating Shelled Peanuts

While Cardinals can certainly eat shelled peanuts, they may prefer the challenge of cracking open the shells themselves. If you decide to feed Cardinals shelled peanuts, it’s best to choose unsalted varieties to avoid any potential health issues caused by excess sodium. Shelled peanuts can be offered in bird feeders or scattered on platforms to attract Cardinals and provide them with a convenient and readily available food source.

Nutritional Benefits for Cardinals

Peanuts are not only a tasty treat for Cardinals, but they also offer several nutritional benefits. These nuts are rich in protein, which is essential for birds’ growth, development, and overall health. Protein plays a crucial role in muscle building, cell repair, and the production of important enzymes. In addition to protein, peanuts also contain healthy fats that provide Cardinals with a source of energy, especially during cold winter months when food is scarce. Furthermore, peanuts are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that contribute to the overall well-being of Cardinals.

Types of Peanuts Cardinals Can Eat

When it comes to feeding peanuts to Cardinals, there are a few different options available. Let’s take a closer look at the two main types of peanuts that Cardinals can enjoy.

Roasted Peanuts

Roasted peanuts are a popular option not only for humans but also for Cardinals. The roasting process enhances the flavor of the peanuts and makes them even more enticing to these birds. When offering roasted peanuts to Cardinals, it’s important to choose unsalted varieties to avoid any potential health problems caused by excess sodium intake. Roasted peanuts can be placed in bird feeders or scattered on the ground to attract Cardinals and provide them with a delicious snack.

Unsalted Peanuts

Unsalted peanuts are another great option for feeding Cardinals. These peanuts are typically raw or boiled, without any added salt. By choosing unsalted peanuts, you can ensure that Cardinals receive the natural goodness of this nut without any unnecessary additives. Unsalted peanuts can be offered in a variety of ways, such as in bird feeders, on platforms, or even mixed with other bird seed blends.

Feeding Peanuts to Cardinals at Different Life Stages

It’s important to consider the different life stages of Cardinals when feeding them peanuts. The nutritional needs of adult Cardinals may differ from those of baby Cardinals, and it’s crucial to provide them with appropriate food sources accordingly.

Adult Cardinals vs. Baby Cardinals

Adult Cardinals have slightly different dietary requirements compared to their younger counterparts. While adult Cardinals can enjoy peanuts as part of their varied diet, baby Cardinals require a diet that is rich in animal-based protein for optimal growth and development. Therefore, it is not recommended to feed peanuts to baby Cardinals, as they need the essential nutrients found in insects and other sources of animal protein.

For baby Cardinals, it’s best to provide a diet that consists of a variety of insects, such as mealworms and caterpillars, supplemented with fruits and seeds. This will ensure that they receive the necessary nutrients to thrive and eventually transition to a more diverse diet as they mature.

Importance of Animal-Based Protein for Baby Cardinals

Animal-based protein plays a vital role in the development of young Cardinals. Protein is essential for building strong muscles, feathers, and other tissues. It provides the necessary amino acids that help baby Cardinals grow, repair damaged tissues, and maintain overall health. While peanuts offer valuable nutrients, they may not provide the same level of animal-based protein that baby Cardinals require for optimal growth. It’s therefore crucial to prioritize sources of animal protein, such as insects, during their early stages of life.

Other Ways to Feed Peanuts to Cardinals

Aside from offering peanuts in their natural form, there are other creative ways to incorporate this beloved treat into Cardinals’ diet. Let’s explore some alternate methods of feeding peanuts to these beautiful red birds.

Peanut Butter

Cardinals have been known to enjoy peanut butter, making it a great option to attract them to your backyard. Simply spread a thin layer of unsalted peanut butter on a tree trunk, wooden post, or specialized peanut butter feeder. Cardinals will be enticed by the rich aroma and indulge in this creamy treat. It’s important to use unsalted peanut butter to avoid excess sodium intake, and also ensure that the peanut butter does not contain any artificial sweeteners or xylitol, as these can be harmful to birds.

Making Summer Suet with Peanut Butter

Suet is a high-energy food source that is often used to attract birds to feeders. You can create a special summer suet recipe by incorporating peanut butter into the mix. Blend equal parts peanut butter and melted suet or lard, then add in various seeds, nuts, and dried fruits. Pour the mixture into a suet feeder or mold it into shapes and hang it in your yard. The combination of peanut butter and suet will not only appeal to Cardinals but also to other backyard birds, providing them with a nutritious and tasty treat.

Cardinals’ Diet Beyond Peanuts

While peanuts are a favorite treat for Cardinals, they have a diverse diet that extends beyond these nuts. Let’s explore some other foods that Cardinals enjoy as part of their natural feeding habits.


Seeds are a staple food for Cardinals and are readily available in various bird feeders and seed blends. Cardinals have a preference for larger seeds, such as sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn. These seeds provide Cardinals with a good source of energy-rich fats, proteins, and essential nutrients.


Insects are a vital source of protein for Cardinals, especially during the breeding season when they require more energy. Cardinals can often be seen foraging for insects such as beetles, caterpillars, ants, and spiders. Providing a habitat that attracts insects, such as a well-kept garden or planting native plants, can help ensure a steady supply of this important food source for Cardinals.


Cardinals are known to enjoy a variety of fruits, including berries, cherries, and grapes. These fruits provide Cardinals with additional nutrients, antioxidants, and hydration. Offering fresh or dried fruits in bird feeders or on platforms can attract Cardinals and provide them with a sweet and nutritious snack.


In addition to peanuts, Cardinals also have a fondness for other types of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Nuts offer Cardinals a rich source of healthy fats and proteins, along with valuable vitamins and minerals. Crushed or chopped nuts can be added to bird feeders or mixed in with other bird seed blends to entice Cardinals and meet their dietary needs.


Berries are a favorite food of many bird species, including Cardinals. These colorful fruits provide Cardinals with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Popular berry choices for Cardinals include elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Planting berry-producing shrubs and trees in your yard can create an enticing habitat for Cardinals and other birds that enjoy these delicious treats.

Other Birds that Enjoy Peanuts

Cardinals are not the only birds that appreciate the taste of peanuts. Several other backyard birds also find these nuts irresistible. Let’s discover some of the avian companions that share Cardinals’ love for peanuts.

Northern Flickers

Northern Flickers, known for their distinctively striped faces and spotted plumage, are woodpeckers that readily consume peanuts. They are often attracted to suet feeders or platforms that offer a variety of nuts and seeds, including peanuts.


Woodpeckers, with their strong bills and unique drumming sounds, also enjoy snacking on peanuts. Like Cardinals, they have a diet that consists of a wide range of foods, including insects, seeds, and nuts. Offering peanuts in feeders or specialized woodpecker feeders can attract these fascinating birds to your backyard.


Chickadees, small birds known for their distinctive calls and attractive plumage, are also fond of peanuts. These lively birds are regular visitors to bird feeders and will readily take advantage of any peanut offerings. Providing peanuts in feeders that are easily accessible to Chickadees can ensure their presence in your backyard.


Jays, known for their bold colors and raucous calls, are well-known fans of peanuts. These intelligent birds are adept at cracking open peanut shells and extracting the nut inside. Placing peanuts in both shelled and unshelled forms in tray feeders or on platforms can entice Jays to visit and add a splash of vibrant blue to your backyard.


Nuthatches, with their unique ability to walk head-first down trees, are also attracted to peanuts. These agile birds will cleverly wedge peanuts into tree bark crevices and then extract the tasty kernel inside. Offering peanuts in bird feeders or specialized peanut feeders can accommodate the feeding behaviors of Nuthatches.


Doves, such as Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared-Doves, are larger birds that appreciate the availability of peanuts as a food source. These gentle birds can often be seen pecking at peanuts scattered on the ground or placed in bird feeders. Providing a mixture of peanuts and other seeds can attract Doves and provide them with a nutritious meal.


Starlings, known for their striking speckled plumage and musical songs, are opportunistic birds that will readily consume peanuts. They are often attracted to mixed bird seed blends that contain peanuts or suet-based feeders that offer a combination of peanuts and other ingredients. Supporting these birds with suitable feeding options can be a delightful addition to any backyard.

In conclusion, peanuts are a beloved treat for Cardinals and provide them with important nutrients. Whether in their natural form, as peanut butter, or incorporated into suet recipes, peanuts can attract Cardinals to your backyard and offer them a nutritious snack. However, it’s essential to consider the specific nutritional needs of baby Cardinals and prioritize animal-based protein sources during their early stages of life. Additionally, it’s worth noting that peanuts are not exclusive to Cardinals, as several other backyard birds also find them irresistible. By providing a variety of foods, including peanuts, seeds, insects, fruits, nuts, and berries, you can create a welcoming environment for Cardinals and their avian companions, ensuring a vibrant display of colors and songs in your backyard.

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