What Kitchen Scraps Can Birds Eat?

In this article, readers will discover a helpful guide on what kitchen scraps are safe and suitable for feeding birds. From fruits and vegetables like apples, grapes, and melons, to cooked pasta, rice, and bread, there are numerous options that can be enjoyed by our feathered friends. Meats and cheeses can be offered in moderation, particularly during colder months when spoilage is less likely. And for those looking to provide extra nutrients, eggshells, pet food, peanut butter, and nuts can also be offered. However, it’s important to be aware of certain foods that should never be given to wild birds, such as chocolate, avocados, and onions. By utilizing different types of bird feeders and following proper guidelines, individuals can offer a nutritious and varied diet to birds, especially during winter and migration periods. With the help of Sally Roth’s comprehensive book, “The Backyard Birdfeeder’s Bible,” readers can delve deeper into the world of feeding birds and create a thriving environment for them.

Fruits and Vegetables

When it comes to feeding birds, fruits and vegetables can be a healthy and nutritious addition to their diet. Birds enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, including apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, berries, and melon. These fruits are not only tasty for birds but also provide them with essential vitamins and minerals. So the next time you have some leftover or overripe fruits, why not share them with our feathered friends?

Apples

Apples are a popular choice among birds. They are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber. Birds can enjoy both the flesh and the skin of the apple, so there’s no need to peel it before offering it to them. You can simply slice the apple into small pieces and place them in a bird feeder or scatter them on the ground. Birds like sparrows, finches, and robins are particularly fond of apples.

Grapes

Grapes are another fruit that birds find irresistible. They are packed with antioxidants and are a great source of hydration for birds, especially during hot summer days. You can feed birds both green and purple grapes, but make sure to remove the seeds first. Birds like pigeons, doves, and starlings will appreciate this sweet treat.

Oranges

Oranges are not only a favorite of humans but also of many birds. They are a great source of vitamin C and are known to boost the immune system of birds. To feed oranges to birds, simply slice them into small wedges or peel them and offer the juicy segments. Orioles, jays, and mockingbirds are among the birds that will flock to your backyard for this zesty snack.

Bananas

Bananas are not only a nutritious snack for humans but also for birds. They are rich in potassium, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber. Birds love both the flesh and the peel of bananas, so you can offer them either one. However, make sure to cut the bananas into small pieces or mash them before serving to make it easier for the birds to eat. Thrushes, warblers, and bluebirds are some of the birds that enjoy bananas.

Berries

Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are a true delight for birds. They are packed with antioxidants and are a great source of natural sugars. You can either offer the berries whole or mash them to make a berry puree. Birds like thrushes, finches, and waxwings will eagerly devour these sweet treats.

Melon

Melons, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, are a refreshing option for birds, especially during the hot summer months. They are high in water content and can help birds stay hydrated. You can cut the melons into small cubes or use a melon baller to create bite-sized pieces. Birds like sparrows, cardinals, and tanagers will appreciate this juicy snack.

Cooked Carbohydrates

Aside from fruits and vegetables, birds can also enjoy cooked carbohydrates. These include pasta, rice, bread, and cereals. However, it’s important to note that these foods should be plain and without added sugar or seasoning. Birds have different taste preferences, so it may take some trial and error to determine which cooked carbohydrates your feathered visitors prefer.

Pasta

Pasta is a versatile food that can be enjoyed by birds. It provides them with energy and carbohydrates. Birds like doves, pigeons, and sparrows will happily peck at small pieces of cooked pasta. You can cook the pasta al dente, let it cool, and then offer it to the birds. Be sure to avoid using pasta with added sauces or oils, as these can be harmful to birds.

Rice

Rice is another cooked carbohydrate that birds find appealing. It is easily digestible and provides birds with a good source of energy. You can cook plain rice without any seasoning and offer it to birds either in its cooked form or after it has cooled down. Birds like ducks, geese, and swans are particularly fond of rice.

Bread

Bread is a common household item that can be shared with birds. However, it’s important to offer bread in moderation, as it lacks some essential nutrients and can be high in carbohydrates. You can tear bread into small pieces or cut it into cubes and place it in a bird feeder or scatter it on the ground. Birds like sparrows, robins, and starlings will happily nibble on this treat.

Cereals

Cereals, such as plain oats or unsweetened cornflakes, can be a nutritious option for birds. They are rich in fiber and provide a good source of energy. You can sprinkle a small amount of cereal in your bird feeder or mix it with other foods to create a bird-friendly trail mix. Birds like finches, chickadees, and titmice will enjoy this crunchy snack.

Meats and Cheeses

While fruits, vegetables, and cooked carbohydrates form a significant part of a bird’s diet, meats and cheeses can also be offered to them in moderation. Meats and cheeses provide additional protein and fat, which are essential for a bird’s health. However, it’s important to remember that these foods should only be given occasionally and in small quantities.

Moderation

Feeding birds with meats and cheeses should be done in moderation. These foods should not replace their natural diet but rather be an occasional treat. Birds such as woodpeckers, blue jays, and nuthatches may enjoy small amounts of cooked chicken, turkey, or lean ham. You can offer these meats in small pieces or shred them to make them easier for the birds to consume.

Winter Feeding

During the winter months, when food sources become scarce, birds can benefit from higher fat and protein foods, such as suet or cheese. Suet is a solid fat that can be purchased or made at home and hung in a mesh bag or feeder. Birds like titmice, chickadees, and woodpeckers can cling on to these feeders and enjoy a high-energy meal. Cheese, on the other hand, can be grated or cut into small pieces and offered to birds. Remember to remove any moldy or spoiled portions before offering it to them.

Eggshells

Eggshells can be a valuable source of calcium for birds. Calcium is vital for birds, especially during the breeding season when females need extra calcium for egg production. To offer eggshells to birds, simply rinse them thoroughly, crush them into small pieces, and scatter them on the ground or place them in a shallow dish. Ground-feeding birds like sparrows, doves, and finches will appreciate this calcium-rich snack.

Pet Food

Leftover pet food can be a great source of protein for birds. Dry cat or dog food can be crushed into small pieces and offered to birds either in a feeder or on the ground. Smaller birds may find it easier to eat small kibble, while larger birds may prefer larger pieces. However, be mindful of any additives or ingredients that may not be suitable for wild birds, such as artificial flavors or preservatives.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a favorite food among birds, particularly in colder months when they require additional energy. You can offer peanut butter by spreading a thin layer on a tree trunk or inside a mesh feeder. Make sure the peanut butter does not contain xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to birds. Birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and jays will happily feast on this protein-packed treat.

Nuts

Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans, can be a nutritious snack for birds. They are a great source of healthy fats and provide birds with energy. You can offer nuts either whole or crushed, but make sure to remove any shells or husks. Birds like chickadees, jays, and titmice will diligently crack open these nutty delights.

Foods to Avoid

While there are many foods that birds can enjoy, there are also certain foods that should be avoided. These foods may be harmful to birds and can cause digestive issues or even be toxic to them. It’s important to be aware of these foods and refrain from offering them to our feathered friends.

Chocolate

Chocolate is a sweet treat for humans, but it can be deadly for birds. Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that is toxic to birds and can cause severe health problems. Even a small amount of chocolate can be harmful, so it’s best to keep all chocolate products away from birds.

Avocado

Avocado is a popular and healthy fruit for humans, but it is toxic to many animals, including birds. Avocados contain a substance called persin, which can cause breathing difficulties, fluid accumulation, and heart damage in birds. It’s best to keep avocados out of reach of birds and not offer them any part of the fruit.

Moldy Bread

Moldy bread should never be fed to birds. Mold can contain harmful toxins that can cause illness or even death in birds. It’s important to check bread for any signs of mold before offering it to them. If bread has gone moldy, it’s best to discard it in a sealed container to prevent birds from accidentally consuming it.

Onions

Onions, along with other members of the allium family such as garlic and chives, can be harmful to birds. These vegetables contain compounds that can damage a bird’s red blood cells and lead to anemia. It’s best to avoid offering onions or any foods containing onions to birds.

Garlic

Garlic, like onions, can be toxic to birds. It contains compounds that can affect a bird’s red blood cells and cause anemia. It’s important to keep garlic and foods containing garlic away from birds to ensure their health and well-being.

Fruit Pits

Fruit pits, such as those found in cherries, peaches, and plums, can pose a choking hazard for birds. They can also contain toxic substances that are harmful to birds. Always make sure to remove fruit pits before offering fruits to birds.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms should never be fed to birds. While some mushrooms are safe for human consumption, many wild mushrooms can be toxic to birds. It’s important to prevent birds from ingesting mushrooms to avoid any potential health risks.

Uncooked Beans

Uncooked beans should be avoided when feeding birds. Raw beans contain a substance called lectin, which can be toxic to birds and interfere with their digestion. It’s best to avoid offering uncooked beans to birds and stick to cooked options if beans are included in their diet.

Salty Snacks

Salty snacks, such as chips, pretzels, and crackers, should not be offered to birds. Birds have a different tolerance for salt than humans do, and a high-sodium diet can be harmful to their health. It’s important to keep salty snacks away from birds and offer them healthier alternatives instead.

Suitable Bird Feeders

Different types of bird feeders may be more suitable for feeding kitchen scraps. When offering sliced fruits or other moist foods, a platform feeder can be a good option. Platform feeders provide a flat surface for birds to land on and enjoy their meals. You can place the slices directly on the platform or use a shallow dish to hold them in place.

Wire feeders can also be a great choice for feeding kitchen scraps. These feeders feature wire mesh that allows birds to peck at the food while preventing larger pieces from falling through. This type of feeder is particularly useful for offering fruits, such as grapes or berries, as well as nuts and other small food items.

Recommended Book

For more information on feeding birds and providing them with a healthy and varied diet, “The Backyard Birdfeeder’s Bible: The A to Z Guide to Feeders, Seed Mixes, Projects, and Treats” by Sally Roth is an excellent resource. This comprehensive guide covers a wide range of topics, including different types of feeders, seed mixes, DIY projects, and even recipes for bird treats. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bird feeder, this book is sure to provide valuable insights and tips to enhance your bird feeding experience.

Feeding birds from the kitchen can be a rewarding and educational experience. It not only provides birds with essential nutrients but also allows us to observe their behavior and enjoy their presence in our backyard. However, it’s important to remember to feed birds in moderation and avoid offering them foods that can be harmful. By following these guidelines and using suitable bird feeders, we can create a safe and inviting environment for birds to enjoy a variety of kitchen scraps.

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