Nurturing Nature: What to Exclude from Your Bird Feeder for a Healthy Avian Diet

By Martin B January 3, 2024

Bird enthusiasts often seek the joy of attracting feathered friends to their gardens. While bird feeders are an excellent way to bring nature closer to home, it’s crucial to understand the dietary restrictions and preferences of these delicate creatures. Here, we delve into the insights provided by avian specialists on what not to include in your bird feeders to ensure the health and well-being of your avian visitors.

image credit: Veronica Winters/ Shutterstock

Understanding Avian Dietary Needs
Birds contribute significantly to the ecological balance, aiding in pollination and bringing vibrancy to our surroundings. Providing them with a safe and nutritious feeding environment is vital. Some foods, although common, can be detrimental to birds, causing malnutrition, illness, or even death. Let’s explore what to avoid.

Commonly Misconceived Healthy Foods
Bread: A popular choice among many, bread, especially in large quantities, is not nutritious for birds. It can lead to unhealthy weight and development issues, like angel wing syndrome, particularly in waterfowl. Bread also attracts invasive species that might harm the native avian population.
Raw Meat: Some might think offering raw meat attracts carnivorous birds. However, it spoils quickly and may attract pests, posing a health risk.
Store-bought Seeds and Nuts: These often contain additives and high salt levels, leading to dehydration or kidney failure in birds. Opt for seeds and nuts specifically prepared for wild birds.
Potato Chips: Laden with salt, oil, and additives, they offer no nutritional value and harm birds’ health.
Honey: While natural, raw honey can be a source of botulism for birds, leading to severe illnesses.
Expired Birdseed: Old or damp birdseed can harbor mold and toxins. Always ensure the seeds are fresh and dry.

image credit: Richard P Long/ Shutterstock

Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Foods to Avoid
Fruit Seeds and Pits: Some contain cyanide, which is toxic to birds. Always remove seeds and pits before offering fruits.
Chocolate: Extremely toxic, it can cause severe health issues and even lead to death in birds.
Dry Beans: Uncooked beans have a toxic substance that’s only neutralized through cooking.
Dairy Products: Birds lack the enzyme to process lactose, making dairy products unsuitable.
Avocados: Contains persin, a compound hazardous to many bird species.
Red Dyes: Often used in hummingbird nectar, artificial red dyes can harm birds. Instead, use natural, colorless nectar.
Soybeans and Corn: Frequently treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, these can weaken and harm birds even in small quantities.
Grape Jelly: While a treat for orioles, processed jellies with high fructose corn syrup are harmful. Opt for natural grape jelly and use appropriate feeders to avoid harm to hummingbirds.

Embracing Responsible Bird Feeding
Attracting birds to your garden can be a delightful experience, but it comes with the responsibility of providing them with a safe and nutritious diet. By avoiding these harmful foods, enthusiasts can ensure that their feathery visitors remain healthy and continue to grace their gardens. Always research and stay informed about the best practices in bird feeding to play your part in conserving these magnificent creatures.