Be Your Own Birder

We’re Nutty for National Peanut Butter Day!

What a day to celebrate a favorite sandwich spread – it’s National Peanut Butter Day! This smooth, rich treat is not only a great favorite for all ages and in all types of delicious recipes, but is an ideal food for birds – giving us all reason to celebrate together!

About Peanut Butter

Paste-like peanut butter and nut butters have been around for more than 3,000 years, but it wasn’t until 1884 that the first official patents for peanut butter were granted. In the early 1900s, different inventions for processing machines, adding different ingredients, and overall different recipes first appeared. In more recent years, blended peanut butters with other ingredients – chocolate, hazelnuts, honey, even jellies – have become more popular.

Peanut Butter and Jelly - Photo by hiwarz
Peanut Butter and Jelly – Photo by hiwarz

Today, the United States consumes more than $800 million worth of peanut butter each year, or an average of three pounds of peanut butter per person. It’s an easy, popular treat, not just for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a classic favorite), but for cookies, pies, candy bars, fudge, puddings, bread, granola bars, pancakes, glazes, donuts, smoothies, and so very much more.

Peanut Butter for the Birds

Birders know peanut butter well as a delicious and nutritious high-fat, high-calorie treat for birds. It’s especially suitable as a winter food, when birds such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, creepers, and chickadees need a bit of extra fat and calories to maintain their body heat and survive cold snaps.

Any brand of peanut butter is good for birds, though they should not be offered any sugar-free options (sugar substitutes can be highly toxic for birds, and low-sugar or low-fat peanut butters don’t meet birds’ nutritional needs). Similarly, any rancid or moldy peanut butter should be discarded and never given to birds, though it can be past its “best by” date and still be a fine bird food (provided it hasn’t spoiled).

Downy Woodpecker Enjoying Peanut Butter - Photo by Indiana Ivy Nature Photographer
Downy Woodpecker Enjoying Peanut Butter – Photo by Indiana Ivy Nature Photographer

Peanut butter can be offered to birds as-is by smearing it on a tree trunk, branch, board, post, or railing, but be aware that the fat and oils in the butter can stain surfaces, so you may want to use a small dish instead. Some birders prefer to mix peanut butter with a bit of flour or cornmeal so it is less sticky for birds, but this isn’t necessary – the birds don’t mind the sticky, they can swallow it just fine, it won’t cause problems on their feathers, and they won’t choke on it (all of which are myths about birds and peanut butter). Peanut butter is also often mixed with suet to be extra attractive to woodpeckers and other suet- and peanut-loving birds.

Peanut butter can soften and run on the hottest days, so it may be best to avoid offering this treat in the summer, or else just offer small quantities that the birds will gobble up right away. Placing peanut butter in the shade will also keep it cooler and firmer on warmer days.

Peanut Butter for Birders

Peanut butter isn’t just great for birds, it can be great for birders as well (assuming you aren’t one of the approximately .6% of the population allergic to peanuts). Packed with protein, it’s a high-energy food to fuel a day in the field, and because peanut butter doesn’t need refrigeration, it can be lightweight and easy to carry a peanut butter sandwich along on a birding trip. Peanut butter and pretzels or crackers, peanut butter cookies, or a candy bar with peanut butter are other great choices that can travel well, depending on the conditions.

Peanut Butter Cookies - Photo by Maggie
Peanut Butter Cookies – Photo by Maggie

Celebrating National Peanut Butter Day

There’s so much to celebrate about peanut butter, you can’t go wrong on how you get nutty for this holiday!

  • Enjoy a sweet peanut butter treat, whether a sandwich, shake, smoothie, cookie, candy bar, or other dessert, or just a jar and a spoon (one of my favorites).
  • Get nostalgic with your childhood sandwiches and add honey, marshmallow cream, bananas, or your favorite jelly to a peanut butter sandwich.
  • Give birds an extra taste of peanut butter to fuel their winter wanderings, or at least offer them a handful of extra peanuts and they’ll make their own peanut butter.
  • Make a pine cone bird feeder with peanut butter and your favorite mixed birdseed or sunflower seeds – a fast and easy craft and a great way to add a new feeder to your yard.

No matter how you celebrate National Peanut Butter Day, feel free to go nuts!

What type of peanut butter do you prefer?

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