What Can Birds Not Eat? (Top Harmful Foods to Avoid)

Birds are fascinating creatures and can make wonderful companions, but it’s important to understand which foods they can and cannot eat to ensure their health and well-being. Human foods, in particular, can be harmful to our feathered friends, as many common items we consume are not suitable for birds. While some people might think it’s fine to toss leftover scraps or treats to wild birds, it’s essential to recognize that doing so can lead to malnutrition, disease, and reduced immunity for these animals.

This article aims to provide insight into what birds should not eat, the potential health problems caused by feeding the wrong foods, and the appropriate alternatives for a bird’s diet. By knowing what not to feed these airborne beauties, we can contribute to their overall welfare and support a thriving avian population in our environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Be aware of harmful human foods to avoid when feeding birds
  • Choose specially formulated bird foods or safe human foods to ensure their health
  • Educate yourself on proper feeding habits to prevent potential health problems in birds

Foods to Avoid for Birds

There are specific foods that can harm backyard birds because they contain certain toxins or compounds that can lead to fatal consequences. In this section, we will discuss various hazardous foods for birds that should be avoided.

Read Next: What Birds Do Not Eat Safflower Seeds?

Chocolate and Theobromine

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which can be toxic to birds, leading to vomiting, dehydration, and even death. Therefore, it is vital to keep chocolate away from birds and not incorporate it in their diet.


Birds are sensitive to caffeine, and its consumption may lead to severe health risks. Caffeine can cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and even fatalities. *Avoid giving birds caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or energy drinks.


Alcohol can be very harmful to birds, leading to fatal intoxication. Even small amounts can lead to severe liver damage and impaired nervous system function. Keep alcoholic beverages away from your feathered friends.


Excessive salt intake can be harmful to birds, causing issues like dehydration, kidney dysfunction, and even death. It’s essential to avoid feeding birds salted foods like chips, salted peanuts, or processed foods with added salt.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic contain compounds that can be toxic to birds, potentially causing vomiting, digestive issues, and damage to their red blood cells. Steer clear of giving birds any food containing onions or garlic.

Avocado and Persin

Avocado contains a toxin called persin which can have poisonous effects on birds, leading to respiratory distress, heart failure, and death. Avoid feeding birds avocado or any food containing avocado.

Apple Seeds and Cyanide

Apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide, toxic to both humans and birds. However, birds are more sensitive to it because of their size. When giving birds apples, always remove the seeds and the core.

Fruit Pits

Fruit pits from fruits like cherries, peaches, or plums can pose a choking hazard to birds. Besides, these pits contain cyanide, similar to apple seeds, which can be toxic in large quantities. Remove pits from fruits before feeding them to birds.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits can cause digestive issues in birds due to their high acidity levels. Avoid feeding birds oranges, lemons, grapefruit, or other citrus fruits.

Dried Beans

Dried beans contain hemagglutinin, a toxin that can cause digestive problems for birds. Cooking beans will destroy this toxin, but avoid feeding birds any form of raw or dried beans.


Honey can be contaminated with pesticides, which pose risks to birds’ health, and can also contain bacteria that can lead to diseases. It’s better to avoid giving birds honey or products containing honey.


Mushrooms provide little nutritional value to birds and may contain toxins harmful to them. Therefore, it is best not to include mushrooms in a bird’s diet.

Milk and Dairy Products

Birds are lactose intolerant, and feeding them milk or dairy products can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea. Limit their exposure to such products and opt for healthier alternatives, like seeds and grains.

Tomato Leaves

Tomato leaves contain alkaloids that can be harmful to birds, causing digestive problems and overall weakness. Stick to offering birds safe fruits and vegetables instead.

Feeding Wild Birds

When it comes to feeding wild birds, it’s essential to provide a variety of healthy and nutritious foods while avoiding potentially harmful items. Offering a selection of fruits, seeds, nuts, and other bird-friendly options can contribute to a thriving bird population in your backyard. Remember to keep the tone confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear while providing valuable information about safe foods for wild birds.

Types of Food for Wild Birds

There are several categories of food that can support the health and well-being of wild birds:

  • Fruits: Whole or chopped fruits like berries, apples, and oranges are excellent sources of vitamins and fiber. Be cautious with fruit seeds or pits, as some may be toxic to birds.
  • Seeds: Sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, sunflower hearts, and thistle seeds are high in protein and fat, helping birds maintain their energy levels, especially during migration.
  • Nuts: Although salted and dry roasted nuts should be avoided due to high sodium content, unsalted nuts like peanuts and almonds provide healthy fats and proteins for birds.
  • Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and even tomato halves can offer wild birds valuable nutrients. Avoid giving them onions or garlic, which can be harmful.
  • Nectar: Hummingbirds and other nectar-consuming bird species can benefit from sugar water feeders, which mimic the high-energy sustenance they would naturally find in flowers.

Remember to avoid giving wild birds foods that can be damaging to their health, such as bread, which lacks nutrition and may lead to increased predator risks for birds as they forage closer to human habitats.

Birdseed and Bird Feeder Guidelines

To maintain a healthy environment for wild birds in your backyard, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Storage: Prevent spoiled seed by properly storing birdseed in a cool, dry, and well-sealed container.
  2. Feeder cleanliness: Regularly clean bird feeders to minimize mold, bacteria, and potential diseases that can spread through bird flocks.
  3. Water sources: Provide fresh water for birds to drink and clean their feathers. A small pond, birdbath, or even a bowl of water can be sufficient.
  4. No additives: Avoid foods that contain nitrates, excessive salt, or other harmful additives for wild birds, such as bacon.

By following these guidelines and offering a diverse and healthy selection of foods, you can encourage a thriving wild bird population in your backyard, providing them with a safe haven during their various migration patterns and protecting them from predators.

Potential Health Problems

Feeding birds the wrong food can lead to a variety of health problems, some of which can be quite serious. In this section, we’ll discuss some of these potential health issues that can result from improper diet.


A lack of nutrients, especially protein, can lead to anemia in birds, causing weakness, lethargy, and poor resistance to disease. Ensuring birds receive a balanced and nutritious diet can help prevent anemia and maintain overall good health.


Some foods can cause digestive problems in birds, resulting in diarrhea. This issue not only makes the bird feel unwell but can also disrupt their electrolyte and fluid balance, potentially causing further health complications. It’s essential to provide birds with appropriate food to minimize the risk of diarrhea and related problems.

Respiratory Difficulty

Certain foods can lead to respiratory difficulties in birds. This may manifest as wheezing, coughing, or labored breathing. Providing a proper diet can help prevent respiratory issues and ensure birds maintain a healthy respiratory system.

Heart Damage

Exposure to harmful substances in food can cause heart damage in birds. In addition to weakness and decreased activity, heart damage can result in an irregular heart rate and other cardiac issues. Ensuring a safe and balanced diet is critical to maintaining the bird’s heart health.

Liver Damage

Some foods, particularly those high in fat, can contribute to liver damage in birds. Liver damage may result in hyperactivity and an increased likelihood of seizures. A balanced diet with appropriate nutrient levels can help protect birds from liver damage and associated health problems.

Kidney Failure

Poor diet can cause kidney failure in birds, leading to a variety of issues ranging from ulcers to electrolyte imbalances. Providing a proper diet with the right nutrients can help maintain proper kidney function and overall bird health.


An imbalanced diet can lead to arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms, in birds. This can result in decreased energy levels and poor overall health. Providing birds with a balanced and nutritious diet can help prevent arrhythmias and maintain a healthy heart.

Cardiac Arrest

In the most severe cases, exposure to harmful substances in food can lead to cardiac arrest in birds. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. Ensuring a safe and appropriate diet is crucial to prevent cardiac arrest and maintain overall bird health.

Specially Formulated Bird Foods

Feeding birds the appropriate food is essential to ensure their health and wellbeing. By understanding their nutrition requirements and providing them with specially designed commercial bird food products, we can help these feathered creatures thrive.

Pet Bird Nutrition Requirements

To keep your pet birds healthy, it is important to provide them with a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. In general, birds require:

  • Energy: To maintain their daily activities, migration patterns, and overall health.
  • Protein: For growth, feather development, and muscle maintenance.
  • Vitamins and minerals: To support various bodily functions and build a strong immune system.

It is vital to research the specific nutritional requirements of the bird species you own, as dietary needs can vary greatly. Ensuring the right balance of nutrients is crucial.

Commercial Bird Food Products

Many commercial bird food products are available on the market to cater to the nutritional needs of different bird species. These products are formulated to provide the appropriate energy, protein, and micronutrient levels needed for the birds’ wellbeing. Some examples of bird food types include:

  • Seeds and pellets: A popular choice for many bird species, providing energy and protein from ingredients like sunflower seeds and millet.
  • Insect-based products: Targeting birds with a taste for bugs, offering protein and other essential nutrients.
  • Fruit and vegetable mixes: A great addition to a bird’s diet, making sure they receive essential vitamins and minerals.

When feeding birds, always follow guidelines and recommendations from trusted sources or experts to ensure proper care and well-rounded nutrition. Providing a variety of specially formulated bird foods will not only benefit their health but also enrich their lives by offering diverse tastes and textures. By choosing the appropriate bird food, you are taking an essential step in caring for your feathered friends and ensuring they can lead happy, healthy lives.

Safe Human Foods for Birds

Birds can eat a variety of human foods, but it’s crucial to provide them with a balanced and nutritionally appropriate diet. Some human foods are safe and beneficial for birds, while others can be harmful or even toxic. In this section, we’ll discuss safe human foods for birds to enjoy.

Cooked Meat

Some species of birds, such as parrots, can benefit from eating small quantities of cooked meat. Cooked chicken and turkey are good options, as they are lean and contain essential nutrients. However, avoid feeding birds raw meat, as it can contain harmful bacteria. Also, ensure that any cooked meat you offer is free of seasoning, sauces, and marinades, as these can contain ingredients that are unsafe for birds.


Eggs are a great source of protein for birds and can be fed to them in moderation. Make sure to cook the eggs thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria and avoid using any seasoning. Boiled or scrambled eggs work well, but remember that birds have different dietary requirements, so always check with an avian expert before introducing new foods to their diet.

Plain Nuts and Seeds

Many birds love eating various nuts and seeds, like peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. However, it’s essential to provide these food items in their plain, unsalted form, as high levels of salt can be detrimental to a bird’s health. Also, avoid giving birds whole nuts, as they may pose a choking hazard. Instead, offer small pieces or crushed nuts, ensuring they’re free of any added oils or preservatives.

Safe Vegetables

Vegetables are a vital part of a bird’s diet, providing essential vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are great for birds, as well as other vegetables like carrots, peas, and corn. Make sure to wash vegetables thoroughly before offering them to birds to remove any potential pesticide residue. Additionally, never feed birds onions, garlic, or tomato leaves, as these can be toxic to their health.

While insects and nectar for hummingbirds aren’t technically human foods, they’re also important dietary components for many bird species. Insects provide vital protein, while hummingbirds rely on nectar as a primary energy source. If you wish to support these birds in your backyard, consider providing insect-friendly plants or purchasing a hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water to simulate natural nectar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are toxic to birds?

Some foods that are toxic to birds include avocado, caffeine, and chocolate. These foods can cause severe health problems and even lead to death in some cases. Additionally, avoid giving birds fruit pits, apple seeds, onions, and garlic as they contain harmful substances. Be careful with tomato leaves as well, as they can also be toxic to birds.

Which fruits should be avoided for birds?

While many birds enjoy fruits, it is essential to avoid feeding them fruit pits and apple seeds, as they contain toxins that can be harmful to the birds. For instance, cherry, peach, and plum pits, as well as apple seeds, contain cyanide, which is poisonous to birds. So, make sure to remove these parts before offering fruits to birds.

Are there vegetables that can harm birds?

Some vegetables may be harmful to birds, including onions and garlic. These vegetables are high in sulfur compounds that can cause digestive issues and damage red blood cells. Moreover, tomato leaves carry a certain level of toxicity, making them unsafe for birds as well.

Can birds eat nuts and seeds?

Nuts and seeds can be a healthy part of many birds’ diets, as they are rich in essential nutrients. However, not all nuts and seeds are suitable for birds. For example, avoid feeding birds avocado, which contains harmful persin that can lead to health problems. Always ensure that the nuts and seeds you provide are unsalted and, if possible, unsweetened.

Is feeding chocolate to birds dangerous?

Yes, feeding chocolate to birds is dangerous and should be strictly avoided. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to birds and can cause fatal health issues, including heart problems, seizures, and even death.

Are there any harmful human foods for birds?

Many human foods can be harmful to birds, such as salt, fat, alcohol, and spoiled seeds. High levels of salt can lead to kidney damage and dehydration while excessive fat consumption can cause obesity and other health issues. Alcohol is toxic to birds, and it must never be given to them. Additionally, offering birds spoiled seeds can increase the risk of bacterial and fungal infections. To keep your birds safe and healthy, always provide them with a balanced diet and avoid toxic and harmful human foods.

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