Why Bread is Bad for Birds, and Better Foods to Feed Them

bread for birds
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash – Marek Piwnicki

Is bread bad for birds? Despite media coverage to the contrary — how many times have you seen people feed bread to birds in movies, on TV, and in commercials? — bread is not recommended for birds. Wondering what they eat instead? We have put together some other options for feeding your feathered friends.

Luckily, there are plenty of affordable and sustainable options for bird feeding and giving birds water. But first, let’s explore why bread is bad for birds in more detail.

Why Is Bread Bad for Birds?

While birds can digest bread, it offers almost no nutritional value. Like humans, birds require a balanced diet, and eating a lot of bread would result in malnutrition.

While the lack of nutritional value poses harm, the potential for accidental poisoning is one of the major problems that can arise when you feed bread to birds. Bread that has mold (even mold you can’t see) can infect or kill birds.

Household bread also has the potential of being compromised by other substances in your kitchen. If you set the bread on a freshly-bleached kitchen countertop before feeding them, the bleach could contaminate the bread, harming the bird.

And, just as humans can choke on even small pieces of food, crunchy or stale bread can pose a choking hazard, especially for chicks. And, chicks that subsist on bread alone are unlikely to become healthy, well-nourished fledglings.

Is It Ever Okay to Feed Bread to Birds?

To be brief: no. While the practice may seem benign, it doesn’t just harm individual birds or your local flock but feeding birds is also bad for the environment. Birds who are fed bread could become dependent upon human food, or could become aggressive if they lose their fear of humans.

Birds can be trusted to find their own food, and simply don’t require human food as a caloric supplement. While bird feeders with proper food only make a neutral impact, feeding bread to birds is actively harmful.

Are There Other Foods That Are Dangerous to Birds?

Yes — food like fruit pits, apple seeds, onion and garlic are toxic to birds as well as chocolate. Do not feed birds anything containing chocolate or that has been contaminated with chocolate. Table scraps are also generally harmful, and leaving human food outside could attract pests like mice, rats, and raccoons.

What Can I Feed Birds Instead of Bread?

Luckily, there are some excellent bird food options that don’t put them in harm’s way. Cracked corn, sunflower seeds, safflower, and peanuts are all excellent choices.

feeding birds sunflower seeds
Feeding birds sunflower seeds. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash – Andrik Langfield)

Tips for Feeding Birds

If you want to feed birds in your yard, purchase a bird feeder and the appropriate food for the feeder type. Some birds feed closer to the ground while some prefer to sit on a perch, so consider purchasing multiple feeders and staggering them around your yard.

For a zero-waste bird feeding option, suet (an excellent bird food) can be placed in an empty onion bag and hung outside for birds to enjoy.

Birds will especially thank you in the winter. When food sources become more scarce, they’ll seek any available supply of food, your bird feeder included.

What Kind of Bird Feeder Should I Get?

bird feeder
Bird feeder is a good way to support birds in finding food during colder months. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Lidia Stawinska)

There are a few different types of bird feeders:

  • Ground feeders are perfect for crows, cardinals, and other birds that feed on the ground.
  • Hummingbird feeders are typically red and hung on a post. Fill them with homemade sugar water and watch the hummingbirds swarm!
  • Tube feeders are a versatile option. Fill them with seeds that are small enough to fit through the dispenser holes to attract chickadees, finches, and titmice.
  • Suet feeders hold suet chunks and can be mimicked with an onion bag. Your neighborhood woodpeckers will love it!

Bird feeders should be placed away from nearby tree limbs to prevent squirrel infiltration, and close to a water source like a birdbath or pond. Experiment with the placement of your feeder, and figure out which location attracts the most avian visitors.

If you’re not sure which bird feeder is right for your yard, you can ask your local extension office for tips.

Bird Is the Word

Feeding bread to birds is not only unsafe but results in additional environmental impacts that harm them at large. Luckily, there are options for appropriate bird food, and feeders are available to purchase online; you can even repurpose an onion bag into a suet feeder.

Keep your local birds safe and healthy by avoiding bread and opting for bird food and feeders. You’ll protect your local environment, and you might just pick up bird watching along the way.

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