Are you one of those people that takes great pleasure in feeding the wild birds in your yard? Or do you have a parakeet or budgie that is the center of your world?
It is often hard to know what you can feed birds as a tasty treat, so in this article, we are going to
Is Popcorn Safe for Birds?
The jury is out on this one. Whilst organic air-popped popcorn is considered to be a healthy treat for birds, salted popcorn or caramel popcorn are most definitely not.
A bird’s natural diet does not consist of eating sugars, salts, artificial flavors and preservatives, so when we start feeding them, we need to be aware of this. They can’t read the labels, so it is up to us to do it for them!
The Nutritional Value of Organic Air-Popped Popcorn
Organic air-popped popcorn is a nutritious and healthy treat for both birds and ourselves, it is rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in saturated fat. Birds can even eat unpopped corn kernels, as these too are rich in vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy diet.
As with all things, popcorn should be given to birds in moderation. Both popcorn and popcorn kernels, should only be fed to birds as a treat and should not form the basis for their diet.
Eating kernels alone can impact their crop, and eating only popped corn can inhibit their digestive process. As much as we love popcorn, it is not healthy to get our entire nutrition from a single food source; it is the same for birds.
The Effects of Salted Popcorn on a Birds Diet
Salt is an essential part of the diet of all animals on earth, and you may notice that salt is added to the bird feed you buy from the store however, excessive salt is very bad for birds and can lead to kidney failure and death if fed to birds in high quantities for too long.
Salt occurs naturally in plain air-popped popcorn at approximately 1mg per cup, whereas in virtually every other type of store-bought popcorn, it is around 100mg or higher per cup. So you can easily see, just by looking at the salt levels, store-bought popcorn is definitely off the menu!
The Effects of Sugar on a Birds Diet
As you can imagine, sugar is not great for birds, and popcorn that contains any kind of sugar should be avoided if at all possible. Not only can it affect a bird’s physical health, causing problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, it can affect their mental well-being too, and is related to depression, hyperactivity, and stress.
But don’t panic if your cheeky feathered friend has nipped down and stolen a sugary treat; as long as he or she is not a repeat offender, it should do them no long-term harm.
The Effect of Fats and Oils on a Birds Diet
Interestingly fats, including saturated fats, are extremely good for many species of birds. The high energy derived from eating fat can not only increase productivity in certain species during the breeding season but also helps to keep them warm through the long cold nights of winter.
However, research has revealed that not all species react well to additional fats in their diet during the breeding season, and there are several species in fact, where breeding productivity can be adversely affected by this nutritional addition.
In short, adding fat regularly to wild birds’ diets, unless carefully monitored, should only be done in the wintertime.
You should also be very wary of adding any kind of fat to the diet of domestic birds. They tend to be less active than wild birds, and a fat-rich diet can lead to obesity and all the health risks that go with it.
Additives and Preservatives that are in Popcorn, and the Effect on Bird Health
A lot of “off-the-shelf” popcorns contain additives and preservatives that could be bad for a bird’s health.
There is a vast list of additives and preservatives contained in most commercial popcorn that are known to cause physical and neurological problems in humans; however, there has been very little significant research on their effect of them on birds. Therefore it is recommended to err on the side of caution and always go with organic popcorn wherever possible.
Genetically Modified (GMO) Corn
The highly controversial GMO corn has thankfully not reached the popcorn market. Whilst most other species of corn have now been cross-pollinated with GMO corn, the corn used for popcorn is of a different enough genetic species that this cross-pollination has not occurred.
FAQs Can Birds Eat Popcorn
Can birds eat popcorn?
Popcorn can be consumed by some bird species, but it’s essential to understand the potential risks and considerations before offering it to them.
What types of birds can eat popcorn?
Small and medium-sized birds, such as pigeons, doves, crows, sparrows, and some backyard birds like cardinals and blue jays, may occasionally nibble on popcorn if provided.
Is popcorn a healthy treat for birds?
Popcorn is not a nutritious food for birds. It lacks essential nutrients they need for a balanced diet, making it a suboptimal choice as a regular treat.
What are the potential risks of feeding popcorn to birds?
Popcorn can pose choking hazards to birds due to its hard and irregular shape. Additionally, the salt, butter, or other flavorings often present in popcorn are harmful to birds and can lead to health issues.
Can birds eat plain, unsalted popcorn?
While plain popcorn is a safer option compared to flavored ones, it still doesn’t offer much nutritional value for birds. Other healthier alternatives should be considered.
What should be the serving size for birds?
If you decide to provide popcorn to birds as an occasional treat, limit the portion size to a small amount. A few kernels are sufficient.
Are there healthier alternatives to popcorn for birds?
Yes, there are plenty of healthier alternatives that birds can enjoy. Some examples include birdseed, unsalted nuts, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
How can I safely offer treats to birds in my backyard?
To provide treats to birds safely, use a designated bird feeder or a flat surface away from potential dangers. Ensure the treats are bird-friendly and do not contain harmful substances.
For more information on birds and popcorn: