For years, peanut butter and bird feeders went together almost like a PBJ. Then came the warnings about how peanut butter is bad for birds. What’s the truth?
Recently, you may have heard dire warnings about how peanut butter and bird feeders are a dangerous mix. Well, if you’ve been worried, calm down. While the warnings are well meant, they’re based on erroneous assumptions. Peanut butter is actually good for birds.
You may remember, as a kid, smearing peanut butter on a pine cone and then rolling it in birdseed before hanging it up in the backyard for the local birds to enjoy. If you didn’t do it yourself, you may have done it with your own kids. Well, now some folks are saying that’s a bad practice.
Actual bird experts disagree, though.
The major worry seems to be that our feathery friends will choke on wads of peanut butter. After all, haven’t you had trouble swallowing a whole tablespoon of peanut butter at once? (And don’t pretend you haven’t tried it).
And we’ve all seen how much trouble (and how funny) it is for a dog to work through a mouthful.
Actually, bird mouths aren’t built like ours. First of all, they don’t have a lot of saliva like us, so peanut butter is less likely to stick. Second, many birds are used to eating gooey bugs, so the stickiness doesn’t bother them anyway (and isn’t that an appetizing thought?).
The second misconception we often hear about peanut butter is that it’s just too fatty, sweet, and salty for birds. Well, what do you think bug guts are made of? Pretty much fatty, salty goo, wouldn’t you think? The sweetness probably isn’t there, but birds don’t mind.
The Tasty Truth
People have a tendency to attribute human characteristics to animals. While this isn’t always a bad thing, remember: birds are far less like us than most other animals, having descended from dinosaurs.
Peanut butter is actually pretty good stuff for them, even though it’s loaded down with complex carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils. Given their speedy metabolisms, they need as much energy as they can get, and the additives that are bad for us aren’t necessarily bad for them.
Also, they get a shot of protein with the peanut butter. They’ll burn off the less-healthy stuff quicker, too.
If you’re worried about your local birds biting off more goo than they can chew, mix your peanut butter with raisins, nuts, cornmeal, and oatmeal to make it drier and less sticky.
If you’re worried about peanut allergies among the kiddos who help you make your pine cone bird feeders, use vegetable shortening instead of peanut butter. It may seem gross to you, but the birds won’t object any more than they will to the classic combo of peanut butter and bird feeders.