Peanut Diplomacy

Peanut Juggler

Diplomacy —peanut and regular — is tricky. It’s only now that I sit down to write about this topic, I’m forced to face how much actual time pondering the the pitfalls and potential of the practice.

Here’s how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines run-of-the-mill diplomacy:
1 : the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations. 2 : skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility

Pretty similar, really, to my theory of Peanut Diplomacy:
1: the art and practice of initiating and maintaining diplomatic relations with another species (in this example, crows.) 2: skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility (towards yourself, or amongst your diplomatic counterparts.)

Marvin feet with peanuts

Why Peanut Diplomacy?

Let’s face it, unless you have inadvertently tipped a plate of french fries onto the sidewalk, you are of little specific interest to the busy crow population. If you want to open talks with them, peanuts are a great place to start.

Marvin with peanut

Benefits of Peanut Diplomacy

Practiced with finesse, the art of judicious peanut distribution has many benefits. You can have the thrill of being greeted daily by your new crow friends. I am sure they love you for yourself, but the peanuts really help them discover your interesting side.

Over time you can come to observe individuals and small crow families and learn to appreciate how different, funny, and interesting they all are.

Marvin the crow Fencewalker

Pitfalls of Peanut Diplomacy

As with political diplomacy, things can easily go sideways. You don’t want to bring any harm to your new crow friends. You also don’t want your neighbours starting to hate you.

Crow skirmish

Peanut Diplomacy Tips

Keeping the Peace

One of the things you don’t want is to create friction amongst various factions of your new friends. In the years I’ve been engaged in the PD field, I’ve always managed to keep the backyard visitors to one family of crows. This takes a bit of diligence, watching out for “your” crows to be nearby before you put out the peanuts and bringing the treats in again if “invaders” try to horn in.

Over the last decade there have been several peaceful coups.

First we had Eric and Clara and their offspring. They moved down the street, of their own accord and Hank and Vera took over. H & V didn’t come back after the mating season one year and we entered the George and Mabel years. Since we lost George in 2018, Mabel has moved down the street and found a new mate and we now have Marvin and Mavis as our corvid garden guardians.

George and peanut

George and his specially adapted peanut collection technique.

Currently, there is some local tension because Mabel has two juvenile crows from last summer and, while Mabel herself (well versed in the rules of territorial rules) doesn’t come to our garden, she doesn’t discourage the two teenagers from exploring this end of the block. Marvin and Mavis are not pleased, so I’m careful not to put peanuts out unless they are right there. I’d hate to see them attacking Mabel’s young ones because of me.

Juvenile Crow

One of Mabel’s kids optimistically hoping for peanuts in our garden.

Mabel Updo

Mabel takes exception to the intruder.

Sentinel Marvin

Marvin on sentinel duty

A subsection of keeping the peace, is distributing peanuts while out walking. In effect you and your peanuts become mobile territory to be squabbled over. I try to avoid this by observing the local boundaries and never dropping peanuts in the “no crow’s land” between domains. Some years it’s more difficult than others to keep the peace.

Mr. and Mrs. Pants didn’t have any surviving fledglings last year — but their neighbours did, and the larger family is trying to horn in on Mr and Mrs P’s corner. We had a few near “diplomatic incidents” when I tried to leave a few nuts for the Pantses earlier this year, so now I either walk another way, or if it seems quiet, try to leave a few nuts near them but out of sight of the bossy neighbours.

Crow Regurgitates Peanuts

Mr. Pants “unpacking” some peanuts he’d just picked up.

If I find I’m suddenly feeling like an extra in Hitchcock’s The Birds, being followed by a small murder of crows, all ignoring the customary boundaries, then it’s time to change my walking route for a week or two to break the pattern.

Portion Control

If there are challenging conditions out (snow covered or frozen, or drought-baked ground) I will offer more nuts. For Marvin and Mavis, when Mavis had pox on her foot, I put out more nutritious food too until she got better. Generally though, I try to just put out enough peanuts to assure my crow pals that I appreciate their letting me take their photographs, and value their friendship.

Marvin and Mavis snack

Marvin and Mavis enjoy their Valentine’s Day brunch

I don’t want them to come to rely on me for food — for their own good, and so I can sometimes go on holiday without fretting about their survival.

Mess Control

I’ve often read that crows prefer peanuts in the shell, and they do! But all those peanut shells end up everywhere. In your roof gutters. Even worse, in your neighbours’ roof gutters. In the interests of human diplomacy, I find it’s better to offer shelled, unsalted nuts. Good quality cat or dog kibble is good too.

Extra Peanut Fun

While Marvin and Mavis always get a “no strings” breakfast, sometimes they come back for visits later in the day and then we have some fun with doing tricks for peanuts.

I “trained” them to pose with my crow calendar at times during the last couple of years, but a favourite is putting the peanuts in more challenging spots. Here Marvin competes in the Picket Fence Challenge.

Marvin Fence Walker 2

Marvin Fence Walker 3

Marvin Fence Walker 4

Marvin Fence Walker 5


I’m sure some of you are already accomplished peanut ambassadors, so do forgive my ramblings. And, if you’re just thinking of exploring the world of peanut politics, don’t let me make it seem too complicated. Have fun and make friends!





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22 thoughts on “Peanut Diplomacy

  1. As with political diplomacy, things can easily go sideways. You don’t want to bring any harm to your new crow friends. You also want your neighbours starting to hate you.

    Think you mean ‘your neighbors TO NOT start hating you

  2. I DOES sound complicated! But really fun.
    (also one other little thing: “…and Hank and Vera took over. H & M didn’t come back after the mating season one year…” Maybe H & V?)

  3. Thanks June. I cannot feed mine directly outside our condo as neighbours complain (Imagine!) but as soon as I turn the corner on Trinity I throw peanuts. Now they know me or Ron and our two dogs. Last week I forgot the peanuts one day and got dive bombed actually hitting my head. It happened the next day again Before I threw the peanuts so I have stopped taking peanuts as it scares me when the crows actually hit my head. Now I find myself apologizing to them for not bringing the peanuts🙄 Why after years of feeding in the same blocks would they start doing this? Do you have an idea?
    Love your stories and images.

    • Agreed with Linda—think this is prime nesting/territory-staking-put season, so they may just be twitchy. Rather than it being a reaction against you sharing peanuts (or punishment for not bringing them), it’s probably unrelated. When you do succeed in a getting the peanuts out first, maybe they then sometimes they leave you alone because they are less likely to perceive you as a threat.

      It’s disheartening when wild creatures don’t reciprocate as warmly with us as we’d like, but sometimes they are just suspect to strong wild animal instincts, regardless of years of peanut experience. 🙂 Or maybe it’s another family of crows that has moved in and they don’t know you.

      • It is getting to be nesting season now and I do think they’re getting more competitive with each other now because of that, but this winter is seems as if the raucous fall fun, when the babies are old enough to go to the roost, has carried on all winter.
        It’s not that the crows are being mean to me, or think of me as a threat. I’m pretty certain they don’t, unless it’s later in the spring and they have fledglings on the ground. I don’t mind being swooped (kind of a fun feeling as they never actually make contact) and I don’t feel they’re punishing me at all. It’s just that I prefer to be visited by smaller groups of crows just so I can see who’s who and follow their stories, and also make sure they don’t get into fights with each other. I think the basic issue in our particular neighbourhood is that some crow families had a lot of nesting success last spring, while their immediate neigbhours (eg. Marvin and Mavis and Mr. and Mrs. Pants) had no luck at all, so the bigger families are testing the borders of their childless neighbours. All perfectly natural, but I just don’t want to make it worse with my peanuts! 😉

  4. Birds who dive bomb your head, usually coming in from behind on a silent glide, are protecting their nest full of babies, as they see you as an intruder. Try walking on the opposite side of the road! June great pics as usual

  5. I love my 2020 calendar. I am not allowed to feed in my West Vancouver building with the exception of humming birds. The hummers’ give me great joy.
    However, I have always loved the Crows. I have a special affinity for them as feisty survivors. I used to work in The Knowledge Network building in Burnaby. Staying into dusk bit meant finding a path through them to the car. Watching the sky turn into a blanket of crows nightly was a highlight.
    Your calendars and your antidotes keep me hooked. Many thanks, Dorothy

  6. I am also a mad Corvid feeder. The nuts are definitely their favourite food. We have hundreds of crows, rooks, magpies and jackdaws here. My crow family is mr and mrs with 3 babies from 2 years ago. Bit of a frenzy in the morning at home as I have a queue in the garden. Neighbours not fans either. Now when I drive to work they follow me up the road and have trained me to throw nuts/biscuit out the window. If I walk they follow and shout me. I think they are so spoiled that they can afford to keep their babies with them. Love your pics June.

  7. I live i a townhouse complex that does not allow animal feeding, with good reason. However, when my crows and Jays squack for attention, I see no harm in treating individuals with a peanut or 2. They must behave. I stop if they squabble. The jays are less wary, so I place their nuts right by the door. And on cold days they like a nice warm bowl of water to dip the peanuts in. They have trained me well.

  8. Thanks for this post June! I used to feed the crows until it led to a very unpleasant dust up with our neighbours. It was my fault really as I was putting out peanuts in the shell { the crows went directly to the neighbour’s gutter with them} and then I continued feeding when the teenagers were at their worst – screaming at the top of their lungs in the morning until I would appear. Think I might try again with my crow friends following your sage advice on the protocol of crow feeding. :-}

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