Wouldn’t it be great if you knew what not to feed wild birds?
We’ve all done it. A kitchen scrap here or there thrown out to the birds.
But now you’re becoming more aware that birds have quite specific diet needs to stay healthy.
Fact: Wild birds are likely to try most human foods offered to them. Especially when food is limited in colder months.
But the reality is that just because they do eat it doesn’t mean they should eat it.
An unspoken rule of feeding wildlife is: do not feed what might cause harm.
And now you’re wondering if there are any foods you’ve offered that may actually be harming your backyard birds, rather than helping them.
The thought just doesn’t bear thinking about.
If you’re worried about feeding your backyard birds the wrong foods, then you’re in the right place.
This guide has been created to help you blacklist certain foods from your birdfeeders.
Not only will you find out what not to feed wild birds, but also why you shouldn’t offer these foods.
Sound good to you?
Yep, I thought so. Let’s get to it.
What Not To Feed Wild Birds – 15 Worst Foods
Don’t serve bacon in your bird feeders.
It might seem like the ideal food to provide wild birds with protein and fats.
Bacon is full of additives that are bad for birds. The main ones are nitrates and salt.
You should know there is a debate about whether or not you can offer birds uncooked bacon fat.
Unless you can be sure about the salt content of the bacon I would avoid offering this to your backyard birds.
Bacon drippings are another no-no to offer wild birds. Cooking bacon leaves traces of cancer-causing additives in drippings, which are very harmful to wild birds’ health.
Just like us humans, too much salt is bad for birds.
Yes, they need some salt in their diet. But, offering highly salted food to birds can be dangerous for their health.
A heavily salted piece of food such as one chip is nothing to you. But it can throw a tiny bird’s body into chaos.
Never offer up very salted foods in your feeders.
But more than that. Make sure that anything you offer from your kitchen is as plain as possible.
That means no adding salt or seasoning in the cooking process. If you have, then don’t offer it to the birds.
Avocado is high-risk food that you should avoid feeding to birds.
What’s the big deal? Isn’t it a fruit?
Avocado contains persin. This is an anti-fungal toxin that causes heart and lung problems for birds. It’s also known to kill birds.
Although there are some bird species that can eat avocado, it’s difficult to know which ones it will affect.
When you’re unsure, it’s best to play it safe and not put it on offer.
I’m sure you’d rather healthy birds over killing a few with your guacamole leftovers.
Unfortunately, birds can’t share your love of chocolate.
Although a little sweet treat might seem ideal for your yard visits, don’t do it.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine.
Theobromine causes a bird’s digestive distress as well and heart and breathing difficulties.
Caffeine has similar effects on birds. So it’s almost a double whammy.
Less than 1oz of chocolate can be fatal to a larger bird, so imagine what it will do to a smaller backyard bird.
So keep those sweet treats to yourself.
Onions are not a safe food to feed birds.
I bet you found this one surprising because I did too.
You’re probably wondering why such a common vegetable is so bad for wild birds.
The truth is that onions have a high sulfur content. When birds eat sulfur it can burn their insides causing ulcers and anemia.
So what does that mean?
Apart from not putting onions directly into your feeders. You need to be mindful of offering birds anything cooked alongside onions.
Bread? I hear you protest.
But doesn’t everyone feed bread to birds?!
Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but commercial bread is not good for birds at all.
In fact, that goes for most bakery products such as bagels, buns biscuits, and loaves.
So why the conflicting information?
The truth is that feeding birds’ bread won’t harm them.
Yet, bread offers no nutritional value to birds at all. It’s empty calories.
The risk is that birds can easily fill up on bread and then not go on to eat food with the nutrients they need.
Offering too much bread in your feeders leads to unhealthy birds with vitamin deficiencies.
Well, this one just has to be wrong. Don’t birds need fat to survive?
And you’d be 100% right.
The issue with offering birds fat to eat is that it has to be the right type of fat.
Saturated fats are what they need. Beef fats are ideal, and you’ve probably seen suet or lard feeders for your yard.
What you need to avoid is fats such as oils that remain soft or runny even when cooled.
A prime example is turkey fat from your leftover thanksgiving meal which is dangerous for birds.
Not only does it not provide them with the right energy but it can harm their feathers.
Think of melted fat causing the same problems for your backyard bird as an oil spill causes seabirds.
8. Fruit Pits & Seeds
This one may shock you, but fruit pips and some seeds can be fatal for birds.
The reason behind this one is that many seeds and pits contain cyanide.
That’s right, that same chemical that you find in those ‘suicide pills’ that spies use in movies.
This doesn’t affect humans as it’s a small dose for us but for a small bird it’s lethal.
The main culprits are:
- Cherry pits
- Peach pits
- Plum pits
- Pear seeds
- Apricot pit
- Nectarines pits
- Apple seeds
You’ll be glad to know that the flesh of these fruits can be offered as long as you remove the seed or pit.
The good news is that not all fruits fall under the unsafe category.
Fruit seeds and pits which are safe for birds to eat are:
- Citrus fruits
Just like bread and salt, milk is not a good food choice to offer wild birds.
The main reason is that birds are lactose intolerant.
This means fresh milk and soft cheese are off the cards for your feeders.
You should know that birds can handle small volumes of milk if given accidentally, but it’s likely to cause them stomach upset.
Water is the best liquid to offer your backyard birds for hydration.
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Honey might seem like a natural treat that birds would enjoy, but sadly it’s not.
The reasoning behind avoiding honey in your feeder is that it’s known to contain nasties such as E.coli, listeria, botulism, fungus, and mold.
I think you’ll agree that those things would be pretty bad for a bird to eat.
So if you see any recipes for hummingbird nectar, oriole nectar, or suet cake containing honey, avoid it like the plague.
11. Dried Beans
I’m not trying to be dramatic, but never offer wild birds raw dried beans.
The toxin hemagglutinin is found in dried beans and is fatal to birds.
So don’t use dried beans to bulk out your bird feeder.
Still want to offer beans in your feeder?
The solution is to make sure you cook them first. Cooked beans can be a real treat for birds.
Cooked beans that go down well are kidney, pinto, and haricot.
Step away from the mushrooms before offering them at your bird feeders. Mushrooms can cause serious health issues for birds.
Mushrooms are fungi that contain various toxins. Some are just downright poisonous to eat.
Although there are some mushrooms that are edible. The cooking process usually kills off any toxins. But the problem is there may be some toxins still present.
Toxins from mushrooms can cause liver failure in birds.
It’s not worth putting your backyard birds’ health at risk.
Garlic is not a safe food to feed birds.
Just like onions, it’s all about the substances it contains.
So what is it that makes garlic so bad for birds?
Well, garlic contains allicin. And although it is safe in small amounts, when birds eat too much it causes health issues such as anemia.
The question is always, how much is too much?
If you don’t know then don’t take the risk and just avoid it altogether.
14. Junk Food
You may be thinking that giving your backyard birds a little junk food is a great way to get some bad fat into their diet?
But stop right there.
Foods such as chips, cookies, and crackers are terrible food choices for birds.
Not only are they full of unhealthy trans fats but they are also crammed full of sugar and salt.
Remember: birds are not humans.
They should be eating food that is nutritionally good for them, not filling up on junk.
Helping birds to eat a poor diet is a surefire way to make the birds in your area unhealthy and impact their chances of survival.
15. Raw Meat
Yes, there are carnivorous birds you can attract to your backyard with meat.
But putting out raw meat to attract birds such as owls is likely to backfire. You’re more likely to cause a rat or mouse infestation instead.
Raw meat is also known to spoil quickly. This attracts disease-carrying flies at high risk of passing on harmful bacteria to birds landing at your feeders.
So let’s wrap this up.
Your question was ‘what not to feed wild birds’ and now you have 15 answers.
You’ll notice that some of the foods on the list such as bread, salt, and milk won’t immediately harm birds. But I always say to avoid them as they are nutritionally poor for birds, which ultimately does cause harm.
Whereas, other foods such as fruit pips, mushrooms, onions, and chocolate contain ingredients that, even in small amounts, can be fatal to wild birds.
Whats’ the bottom line?
I’d say keep this list safe and don’t offer any of these 15 ‘worst’ foods at your feeders.
If you’d like to read more head over to my guide about what you can feed birds from your kitchen.
Let me know in the comments which food on the list you found most surprising.