Cashews can be a great source of nutrients for humans. People living in the warmest climate zones might even be able to grow some in their gardens as a sustainable protein source!
But can birds eat cashews? And are cashews a good food source for the wild birds in your garden? Keep reading to find out!
Do Birds Eat Cashews?
Many birds do indeed eat cashews where these are offered.
Nuts are a popular foodstuff for many different birds, and cashews (commonly called a nut though actually technically a seed) can be very appealing to birds when offered as a portion of food at a bird table or in a bird feeder.
Cashew seeds grow within the kidney-shaped drupe below an accessory fruit (known as a cashew apple) on large, evergreen trees which grow to around 14m in height.
The single seeds are contained within a double shell that contains allergenic substances which are toxic and can cause severe skin irritation. Care is required to retrieve the edible portion within for an occasional treat.
The species, called Anacardium occidentale, is native to Northeastern Brazil and Southeastern Venezuela, but has now spread and is grown in tropical regions around the world.
It can potentially be grown in USDA zones 9 and above, but does best in coastal regions with pronounced dry seasons, alongside mangoes and tamarinds.
Common backyard birds won’t be able to get at cashews on a tree and since this is not a tree native to the US, is not a natural food source for native birds’ balanced diet.
However, where birds are offered raw cashews to eat, they will certainly often enjoy eating them and will appreciate it if you offer them as a supplemental food source in your garden.
Which Birds Eat Cashews?
Most wild birds that commonly eat nuts and seeds will also enjoy this more exotic addition to their diets.
Birds such as cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks, jays, junco, nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers are among those species that are likely to take advantage of cashews as a food source.
Some nut and seed-eating species have bills that can break up cashews into pieces, but if you break up the cashews by crushing them into smaller pieces before you place them in your garden then more birds will be able to take advantage of these as a food source.
Are Cashews Good for Birds?
So, we have established that cashews are a food source that will be eaten by a range of wild birds visiting your property. But is it a beneficial source of energy for your feathered friends?
Yes, the answer is that cashews are not only seemingly enjoyable for birds to eat, but they are also a great source of protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients.
Raw cashews are 5% water, 30% carbohydrates, 44% fat, and 18% protein. They are a great source of energy, and also provide many dietary minerals and vitamins.
This means that like other ‘nuts’, cashews are a valuable food source for birds—especially through the winter months.
It is important to remember, however, that cashews should only ever be fed to birds in raw and unadulterated form.
Can Birds Eat Salted Cashews?
Salted cashews should never be given to birds as salt, even in low quantities, can be damaging to the health of your feathered friends. Feed only unsalted cashew nuts as a safe nut option.
Can Birds Eat Roasted Cashews?
Remember, most roasted cashews sold for sale will also have a high sodium content and may have other additions that might not be bird-friendly.
Roasted cashews (if it is just the cashews alone) won’t do birds any harm. But it is far better to only feed raw cashews in their purest form.
Can Birds Eat Chocolate Coated or Other Coated Cashews?
Steer clear of any cashews that have been coated in chocolate or flavored in other ways, or which are coated with other sweet or savory additions.
Often, these will contain ingredients that are not great for garden birds, and which might even do them harm. Stick to plain, raw cashews only.
Can Birds Eat Cashew Butter?
If you are making fat ball-type feeders for birds, pure and cashew-only cashew butter will be fine to include in the mix as a binding agent and additional source of calories and nutrients. Just remember, as above, that cashew butter with any added salt, sugar, or other ingredients won’t be a good food source for the birds in your garden.
The same thing goes for cashew cream, cashew cheese, or any other leftovers from a vegan or vegetarian household.
Those containing healthy cashews alone can be good for birds and won’t do any harm. But remember to think carefully about any other ingredients that might have been used in a recipe to make sure you do not inadvertently leave out something for the birds that could cause health issues.
How To Provide Cashews for Birds
Cashews might be healthy for birds. But when feeding birds in your garden, as when feeding yourself, you should also try to think about whether the choices you make are also healthy for people and the planet.
Can You Plant Cashews for Birds?
One way to care for our planet and be as eco-friendly as possible is to limit the amount that we buy, and instead look to grow as much as we can in our own gardens.
We should think first and foremost about providing native, natural food sources for the birds where we live. Next, we should try to seek out foods that have traveled as short a distance as possible.
As mentioned above, cashew nuts are a tropical crop, and most regions of the US will be suitable for growing these trees. So for most people living in temperate areas, cashews are an exotic crop with relatively high food miles.
This comes at a carbon cost, and all this has an impact on the wildlife we are trying to aid.
If you do live in an area where cashews can be grown, this could be something to consider to provide a food source for yourself and garden birds.
If, however, you do not live in a warm enough area—remember that there are plenty of other nuts and seeds that you might consider growing in your garden.
Native species will often be the best choices for birds, as well as the best choices for our planet. And even when you cannot grow them yourself, you will be able to source them far closer to home.
Serving Cashews to Birds at a Bird Table or Bird Feeder
If you do decide to buy cashews, for yourself or garden birds, try to seek out sustainable, organic options where possible, to limit the environmental harm involved in their production.
Cashews are sold for sale to consumers already shelled. As mentioned above, the shells can cause skin irritation (like poison ivy).
So if you are growing cashews then a lot of care is needed to prepare the nuts for the birds or your own consumption and get rid of the toxic and dangerous outer coating.
Shelled, raw cashews can be placed on a bird table, or added to a bird feeder alongside other nuts and seeds. You can leave the raw cashews whole.
But to attract the greatest number of birds it is best to crush them up first.
Just remember that unless the cashews were grown in your garden, or close by, it is likely that there will be plenty of more eco-friendly and sustainable bird food options for you to consider.