Do Cardinals Eat Peanuts? Shelled Peanuts or Peanut Butter?

Cardinals are part of the Cardinalidae family and feature unique seed-crushing bills specialized in feeding on seeds and fruits, especially in the winter.

As such, if you live in an area where cardinals are frequent visitors, you’re probably wondering whether peanuts will attract them to your yard. If you’re planning to do this during the winter, kudos for the effort of supplementing these birds’ diets!

Cardinals love peanuts and will gladly enjoy them if you put some in your backyard bird feeder! They can eat peanut butter as well, but it must be as natural as possible. Salted and sugared peanuts should be excluded, as they may harm the birds. Moreover, it’s recommended to roast the peanuts before feeding cardinals.

If you want to learn more, keep reading! We’ve covered everything you need to know about giving peanuts to cardinals!

Do cardinals eat peanuts
Male Northern Cardinal eating peanuts on a bird feeder.

Do Cardinals Eat Peanuts?

Cardinals prefer eating seeds and fruits outside the breeding season and supply their diets with invertebrates during the breeding season (from March until September). As such, if you want to feed cardinals peanuts, you should consider what time of the year you’re doing this, as it may affect the cardinals’ willingness to come to your yard.

Apart from this, all you need to know is that cardinals will definitely feast on a peanut meal, especially during the winter, as they are rich in protein and healthy fats. Moreover, they’re high in calories and provide cardinals with the energy they need.

Furthermore, thanks to their specialized bills, they can eat peanuts in the shell, as well, because they can break the shell open and eat the peanuts inside it.

We do not recommend feeding cardinals salted or sugary peanuts. While humans can tolerate sodium and sugar, birds are more sensitive to these. Therefore, salted and sugared peanuts will do them more harm than good.

Moreover, there’s a whole debate going on about raw and roasted peanuts. While many bird enthusiasts believe that raw peanuts are safe for birds, others state that they contain trypsin inhibitors, which, long story short, are bad for their health. That’s why we recommend roasting the peanuts before serving them. Better safe than sorry!

Do Baby Cardinals Eat Peanuts?

It’s not a good idea to feed baby cardinals peanuts. In the wild, adult cardinals give their young almost exclusively bugs and insects that cover their growing needs. Besides, peanuts are too large for baby cardinals to swallow. So if you have a baby cardinal around your house, you should stick to its natural diet. 

Why Are Peanuts Healthy for Birds?

Peanuts are a valuable source of vitamins B, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. B-complex vitamins and calcium are, by far, the most important for a bird’s health. The proteins and fatty acids will serve a cardinal’s body well, too!

However, it’s important that the cardinals in your yard do not eat only peanuts. As with any other food source, it’s best not to overdose it. Vitamins and minerals do their job well as long as they’re provided in required quantities.

Moreover, it’s of the essence to choose the peanuts wisely – they have to be high-quality and fresh. Moldy peanuts can be very dangerous for cardinals!

This being said, cardinals will benefit from peanuts, especially during the winter, so don’t hesitate to give them some!

Do Cardinals Eat Peanut Butter?

Cardinals love peanut butter! But there’s an important aspect you should consider. Commercial peanut butter is full of additives that can harm your backyard birds.

We recommend preparing homemade peanut butter if you want to go the extra mile. If this is not an option and you’d still like to provide some peanut butter for the cardinals around your house, you should go for the most organic option possible and check the ingredients thoroughly.

How to Feed Peanuts to Cardinals?

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s of the essence to choose the peanuts wisely. Then, we strongly recommend cooking the peanuts to avoid possible poisoning.

You can scatter some peanuts around your backyard or put them in a bird feeder. Either way, ensure they’re not placed in wet, uncleaned areas, as peanuts might get moldy and harm the charming cardinals.

If you opt for a bird feeder, you can choose a tray or platform feeder, a window feeder, or a wire mesh feeder. Although bird enthusiasts confirm that cardinals can eat whole peanuts, we recommend crushing them into smaller pieces if fed without the shell. This will minimize the risk of choking. 

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