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Kitchen Scraps For Birds

Robin On A Bird Table

Kitchen scraps can provide wild birds with essential fats and carbohydrates that can be missing from specialist seed mixes. These are especially important during the winter and nesting seasons when birds need as much energy as they can get.

Kitchen scraps can simply be placed on a bird table or ground feeder or they can be chopped up and added to feeder mixes. Alternatively you can mix them with suet and press into a plastic carton or coconut shell to make a simple fat feeder.

Many different types of food from the kitchen can be fed to the birds in your garden. Below are some of the most popular that will ensure you attract a variety of species.

Cheese

Cheese is high in fat and will provide your garden birds with plenty of much-needed energy. It’s also full of calcium which is essential for strong and healthy bones. A mild, grated hard cheese such as Cheddar is ideal and will be popular with robins, blackbirds, and thrushes. Avoid very strong cheese, blue cheeses such as Stilton, or anything flavoured with onion, chives, or garlic, which can cause digestive problems.

Soft or spreadable cheese such as brie, camembert, or cream cheese isn’t suitable, as it can stick to a bird’s feathers, which can damage them, destroying their waterproofing and insulating properties, and even inhibit flight.

Peas and sweetcorn

Frozen, tinned, or fresh leftover peas and sweetcorn are all good to feed wild birds. Scatter some on the ground to attract collared doves, sparrows, and wrens.

Potatoes

Birds will enjoy eating potatoes and as they’re full of carbohydrates they’re perfect for giving them an energy boost during the winter. Offer them leftover mashed or boiled potatoes, opened-up jacket potatoes, or baked sweet potatoes, but be careful with roast potatoes and chips as they can have a high-salt content.

Do not give birds raw potato or potato peelings as they contains an enzyme inhibitor called protease, which prevents other enzymes from breaking down food and providing birds with nutrients. Raw potato also contains a lot of starch which can get stuck in the crop. Over time the starch can ferment, which could eventually be fatal.

Vegetables

Birds may struggle to digest raw vegetables, but you can safely leave out cooked vegetables such as carrots, sprouts, broccoli, courgettes, and cabbage. Try offering them in small quantities to start with to find out which are most attractive to your garden birds.

Rice

Rice is another food high in carbohydrates, and you can offer both cooked brown and white rice to your garden birds. Make sure it has cooled down before you put it out on a bird table or leave it on the ground and don’t feed your garden birds with rice that has been heavily salted.

It’s also fine to put out uncooked rice for birds. Contrary to the popular misconception it won’t swell up in their stomachs causing them to die, and plenty of grain-eating birds eat rice in the wild. It’s unlikely to attract many birds to your garden apart from pigeons, doves, and pheasants.

Pasta

Small quantities of cooked pasta can be left out for birds. Chop up pasta like spaghetti into smaller pieces to make it easier for birds to eat and rinse leftover pasta that is coated in rich, oily sauces, or strong cheese.

Bread

It’s a common misconception that you can’t feed birds bread. Although most bread doesn’t contain a lot of nutritional value, small amounts are ok as part of a varied diet.

Break up large pieces into smaller chunks and soak any stale or dry pieces in a little water to prevent birds from choking on them. During breeding season limit the quantity of bread you put out as fledglings fed solely on bread will not develop into healthy adult birds.

Pastry

Birds will happily tuck into cooked or uncooked pastry, especially if it’s been made with lard or butter, and as long as it’s not full of sugar or salt.

Cakes and biscuits

Shop-bought cakes and biscuits aren’t ideal for birds but homemade baked goods in small quantities are a good source of carbohydrate and fats. Birds will especially enjoy the crumbs and leftovers of seed, carrot, banana, or fruit cakes. Break them into small pieces and put them directly on your bird table or add to homemade fat balls.

Do not feed chocolate cake or biscuits to birds, and scrape off any icing or buttercream which could stick to their feathers.

Porridge oats

You should never put out leftover cooked porridge for birds as it can become glutinous and harden on a bird’s beak after eating. Uncooked porridge oats are a nutritious treat, and many species of garden birds will enjoy eating them. Place them somewhere where they will stay dry and clear any away if they become sodden from rain.

Cereal

Stale cereal will make a tasty treat for birds. Do not put out cereal with a high salt or sugar content or leftover cereal that has been soaked in milk.

Great Tit

Muesli and granola can also be fed to birds but again, check the ingredients, as many so-called healthy breakfast foods are high in sugar.

Bacon

Bacon and bacon rind is high in protein and fat and a good food for birds as long as the bacon is not smoked or very salty. Bacon rind can be tough so chop it up into small pieces to make it easier for small birds to eat. Be aware that bacon can attract not only larger birds such as gulls and magpies but also rodents and cats.

Do not feed birds fried bacon. The fat can accumulate on their feathers and the frying process can increase the presence of nitrosamines which are carcinogenic in large quantities.

Meat

Don’t put out raw meat as most birds will find it difficult to digest. However, suet and marrow bones are an excellent source of protein if insects are in short supply. Only put out small amounts as meat can attract vermin and will spoil quickly, particularly in hot weather.

Eggs

It may seem counter-intuitive, but eggs contain many essential nutrients for birds, and chicks live off the yolk of an egg before they hatch.

Cooked eggs, including scrambled, poached, and boiled, can all be fed to birds, and crushed egg shells provide calcium, which is particularly important for breeding birds, and grit to help with their digestion.

Fruit

Birds will enjoy eating windfalls and bruised fruit including apples, pears, oranges, grapes, and peaches. Chop them into small pieces and remove any pips or stones to attract birds like thrushes, blackbirds, and starlings.

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Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries will also prove popular as will bananas, which although not a traditional fruit, are full of healthy goodness. Slice them or mash them before putting them out on a bird table or scattering on the ground. You can also put out soaked dried fruit including raisins, sultanas, currants, apricots, and prunes.

If you leave grapes or raisins out for your birds make sure you put them somewhere dogs and cats can’t get to them as these fruits can cause a severe reaction.

Nuts

Almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts are all good choices for birds. Do not offer salted, dry roasted, or flavoured nuts and chop them into small pieces or feed from a mesh feeder during breeding season so baby chicks cannot choke on them.

Peanuts are not a nut and you shouldn’t give raw peanuts meant for human consumption to birds as they can contain small traces of aflatoxin.. Aflatoxin is fine for humans to eat in trace amounts but can prove fatal to birds. Leftover peanut butter can also be high in salt and sugar so check the label before you leave it out for birds.

Coconut

Coconut halves can be hung up or filled with fat and seed. Do not feed birds desiccated coconut which can swell in their stomach and may kill them.

Pet food

Wet cat and dog food can be a healthy option for birds and a good substitute for worms in dry weather when the ground may be too hard for birds to dig them out.

Dry pet food will need to be crushed or soaked before putting out as birds could choke on large pieces.

Fat

Do not use leftover fat from the roasting pan. It is likely to be high in salt and because it’s blended with meat juices will not set so can smear on a birds’ feathers. It can also be a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause disease.

Solid fat such as lard and suet are great sources of energy and ideal for feeding to garden birds when mixed with seeds, nuts or fruit. Pure fat will spoil less quickly and will not attract bacteria as readily, although you should avoid leaving it out in very hot weather.

Polyunsaturated fats like margarine and vegetable oils do not contain saturated fats which birds need for their energy levels. Avoid these altogether for your garden birds.

 

Make sure that the area where you feed your birds is kept clean to keep vermin such as rats away. Put out small quantities and sweep away any debris from the ground at the end of each day. Birds will not eat food that has gone off so regularly clear away old food and disinfect the area to prevent the spread of bacteria.

8 Responses

  1. I have all types of birds coming to my feeder’s on my windowsill including pigeons and I find that they all help each other in getting the feed that they prefer.
    Don’t be so hard on the pigeons as I have found that they help distribute the smaller seeds that the little bird can’t get to in the feeders.
    All birds are very welcome to my feeders and they all play a role in helping each other.
    Mix your feeders to suit all birds and I assure you there is enjoyment in helping all of them.

  2. I like to feed birds but I find doing so attracts far too many feral pigeons. What foods could I use that is of no interest to pigeons. I am a bird lover but treat feral pigeons as “rats with wings.”

  3. The information for what is good for birds and not was much appreciated. Mainly fruits and vegetables I wondered about but now I know what else they can be given. Thank you

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