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What to feed birds from the kitchen

What to feed birds from the kitchen: Bird in a tree perched on half an apple
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A lot of people wonder what to feed birds from the kitchen and that’s not surprising. Unlike cats and dogs, most of us don't own birds and so we're not as familiar with knowing what foods are safe to feed our feathered friends and which ones aren’t.

The good news is, a lot of common foods that you’ll find in your kitchen are ideal for garden birds and a fair few of them are ingredients you’d probably never even think of. It turns out that these little winged wonders enjoy a lot of the same foods we do! 

Investing in a good bird feeder is a great way to serve up many of the treats we identify below, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, you can easily pop these on a plate and they’ll get gobbled up just as quickly. 

It’s worth pointing out that younger birds will require a different diet, so if you’ve found a newly hatched chick, check out our guide to what to feed a baby bird to make sure they’re getting the nutrition they need to fly the nest. 

As for adult birds, without further ado, here's our top picks of what to feed birds from the kitchen to keep your beaked buddies full of energy...

Apples

If you’ve ever had an apple tree in your yard and frequently found all of your fruit pecked beyond recognition, then you likely already know just what a fan our feathered friends are of this crisp and delicious fruit.

Almost all birds love apples, but they’re a particular favorite of breeds like the American robin, the eastern bluebird, and the red-bellied woodpecker. When serving up this tasty treat, you’ll want to slice the apples up and remove the seeds. 

If you want to attract hummingbirds, slice the apple in half, scoop out part of the fruit and fill it with sugar water before skewering it onto a feeder. Trust us, these little beauties find the combination of apple and sugar water to be irresistible.

Bananas

Another crowd-pleasing fruit is the nutrient-rich banana and it’s so easy to dish up, simply remove the peel, chop it into rounds and then place on a tree stump or skewer. 

It’s the perfect way to use up those bruised bananas that are no longer fit for human consumption - after all, there are only so many banana cakes a person can make!

bird on feeder

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pumpkin seeds

The northern cardinal, evening grosbeak, red-breasted nuthatch and tufted titmouse are just some of the birds that enjoy feasting on pumpkin seeds. Roast them in the oven before serving and make sure you steer clear of any salt or seasoning. 

Pumpkin seeds also make a great addition to a birdseed wreath. Check out these great birdseed wreath recipes for ideas on how you can make your own DIY version at home.

Raisins

There’s nothing better for a bird’s beak than a plump and juicy raisin to get stuck into and when you fill your feeder with this dried fruit expect to have every bird from orioles to bluebirds flocking to your yard. Just make sure you soak them in some warm water first so they’re nice and soft and easy to eat.

bird feed raisins

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sweetcorn, peas and potatoes

There are a lot of vegetables that aren’t suitable for birds because they’re difficult to digest, but peas, sweetcorn and potatoes with their skins removed make the list of safe and nutritious foods you can feed your feathered friends.

Although it’s a fiddly job, make sure you remove the outer skin from the peas and sweet corn as well as the potatoes, and why not try varying the texture by mixing in a few pumpkin seeds for an unexpected crunch.

Peanut butter

We go nuts for peanut butter and it turns out our feathered friends do too. Almost all birds will swoop down when they get a whiff of this delectable delight, but it’s particularly popular with the black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, wood thrush, wrens, and the noisy woodpecker.

Try spreading apple or banana with smooth or crunchy peanut butter, or if you don’t have any fruit to hand, you can slather it on a pinecone or even a fence post. It’s best served up in winter as the cooler temperatures will stop the peanut butter from melting. 

What to feed birds from the kitchen: Bird eating peanut butter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Eggs and eggshells

Believe us, we thought this one was strange too, but it turns out eggs and eggshells are a bird’s best friend. Cooked eggs are packed full of nutrition and their shells are calcium-rich, which female birds need a lot of, especially when they’re nesting. Oh, and they’re good for digestion too, helping our beaked buddies to stay regular!

When it comes to preparing the eggs, hard or soft-boiled are both fine but the former is slightly easier to digest. We recommend you crush your eggshells and bake them at 250 degrees F for 20 minutes to ensure they’re sterile before crumbling them up and serving them to the birds in your backyard.

Pasta and rice

It turns out that our favorite starchy and carby comfort foods go down equally well with birds as they do with us. Leftover cooked plain pasta or rice are both great sources of energy for birds, especially in the winter months when food is much harder for them to come by. 

Make sure that any pasta and rice that you put out is free from heavy sauces, salt, spices, or cheese - plain is best as anything else is too hard for our feathered friends to digest.

bird feed rice

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cereal

There’s nothing that powers the human body through the day quite like a hearty bowl of porridge, and as luck would have it, the humble oat is a great source of fuel for birds too.

As well as plain or toasted oats, you can also serve up bran flakes, corn flakes, or plain cereals with fruit and nuts, like low-sugar muesli. Before you give any cereal to birds, crush it with a rolling pin so there are no large chunks that could get stuck in their throat. 

Avoid cereals that are high in sugar, have artificial colors, or have marshmallows in them - not only are these unhealthy, but sticky foods like marshmallows can cause problems for a bird's beak. 

Baked goods

You probably won’t want to part with your freshly baked cakes, cookies, and bread, but if you have any stale delights lying around that are past their best, fling them to the birds instead of into the bin.

Birds love homemade baking as much as we do, so break them up into small pieces, give them a good soak to soften them up and then offer them up to your beaked buddies. And while they certainly won’t be fussy, whole grains and low-sugar items are best.

birds eating breadcrumbs

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pet food

What’s good for your dog or cat is good for your bird too, so if your very own Garfield and Odie or Milo and Otis don’t mind sharing their dinner, feel free to pop out some pet food.

Both wet and dry cat food for dogs and cats is formulated to be highly nutritious and birds can definitely benefit from getting their beaks into those vitamin and mineral-rich dishes. Just be sure to soak kibble first or crush it up so that it’s easy to eat.

Cheese

Like humans, some of our bird friends can suffer from lactose intolerance, so this one won’t win all of them over, but you’ll find some will get their feathers in a right old flap when given the opportunity to gobble up some hard cheese.

Mild flavors are best, so go for a nice cheddar and steer clear of soft cheeses, which aren’t suitable. While the cheese can be stale, it needs to be free of mold and not rancid as this can quickly make birds sick.

What not to feed birds 

What to feed birds from the kitchen: Blue tit eating seeds from a dish

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chocolate

If you're anything like us, we're pretty sure you won't want to be parting with your precious chocolate any time soon, but just in case you were wanting to share some of this heavenly treat with your feathered friends, it's important to note that chocolate can be toxic for birds.

The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate can upset the delicate digestive system of birds and large doses can affect them in the same way it can affect dogs, causing an increased heart rate and even death.

Avocados

Full of healthy fats and nourishing goodness, avocados are a human body's best friend, but not so for our little beaked buddies. That's because this green fruit contains a fungicidal toxin known as Persin which can cause serious illness and death in birds, whose bodies are not equipped to process it. 

Fruit pits and seeds

The pits and seeds of plums, cherries, apricots, nectarines, pears, peaches, and apples, all contain cyanide so make sure you only ever serve up the flesh and remove any traces of pits and seeds.

Uncooked beans

When they're in their uncooked form, beans are high in a toxic compound known as hemagglutinin. The good news is that if you soak them overnight and then cook them, they're perfectly safe for birds to consume. 

Salt

Just like us humans, excessive amounts of salt can cause birds to become dehydrated and can lead to kidney and liver problems. It's fine to pop out foods that have a small amount of salt (some peanut butters contain around 0.5% - 1% of added sea salt) but avoid deliberately salting foods or giving birds snacks that are extremely high in sodium, such as crisps or pretzels. 

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer with a passion for creating health and wellness, travel and wildlife content. Originally from New Zealand, her nomadic lifestyle has her currently fur baby-less. She scratches her pet parent itch by stealing frequent cuddles with any neighbourhood cat kind enough to indulge her.