Pumpkin seeds scooped out of a potential jack-o-lantern can be rinsed off, dried and used as a tasty treat for wild birds, said Kathleen Lyons, an avid bird watcher and newsletter editor for the Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma.
Lyons included that advice in the chapter's October newsletter.
"Normally, I save pumpkin seeds for when the weather gets really cold and the birds are desperate for extra food to keep warm," Lyons said. "I usually sprinkle the seeds right on the ground, or on top of the snow."
Lyons contends cardinals, grosbeaks and blue jays will readily eat pumpkin seeds.
Neil Garrison, a naturalist at Martin Park Nature Center in north Oklahoma City, agrees pumpkin seeds can be fed to birds.
But he doubts many species will choose them over more familiar and palatable treats, like black oil sunflower seeds, thistle seeds or seasonal wild berries.
"The big problem is pumpkin seeds have pretty tough shells," said Garrison, who's also president of the Central Oklahoma Audubon club.
Garrison suggested putting the pumpkin seeds in a blender for a few seconds after they've been dried.
"That might break them up enough so the kernels, or meat, of the pumpkin seeds are more accessible for the birds to eat," he added.
Garrison says putting out pumpkin seeds might interest children in feeding the birds.
"It worth a try," he said. "But don't have unrealistic expectations if you put them out side by side with some black oil sunflower seeds. The birds just love those."
That's also the opinion of Mark Howery, a wildlife density biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Howery experimented with pumpkin seeds as a source of food for wild birds years ago.
"Pumpkin seeds didn't seem real popular with the birds," said Howery, president of the Cleveland County Audubon Society.
Howery said the size of the pumpkin seeds appeared to be the biggest obstacle, and likely limits their appeal among small birds like chickadees, finches, titmice and sparrows.
"Putting out pumpkin seeds isn't something harmful to do," Howery said. "Waterfowl would probably like them, and possibly blue jays and cardinals.
"I'm sure the squirrels would just love them," he added.
Lyons, however, remains a staunch proponent.
"The big thing is to wash off the pulp from the pumpkin so the seeds don't get moldy," she said.
Then place the seeds outside in the sun, or bake them in a low temperature in the oven, until they're dry, she added.
"You don't need to bake them in the oven as long as you would when you're toasting them for people to eat as a snack," Lyons said.
The idea of feeding pumpkin seeds to the birds sounded plausible to Pat Bergey, former president of the Cleveland County Audubon Society and compiler of the annual Norman Christmas Bird Count.
"I've saved pumpkin seeds for years for human consumption, so it makes perfect sense that birds might like them, too," Bergey said.
Bergey has been feeding cantaloupe and watermelon seeds to birds in her yard for years.
"Just leave them natural and put the cantaloupe seeds out with little bits of pulp clinging to them," Bergey said. "Birds don't care. They're not nearly so persnickety as humans."