What Cereals Can Birds Eat? (And Which Ones They Can’t)

Ever wonder what breakfast cereals are safe for birds to eat? From the safety concern about feeding rice cereals to your flying friends to the healthiness of Cheerios, this article is going to answer your questions.

Naturally, as birds’ nutritional requirements differ from humans, it’s important to be aware of what you can safely offer them as a treat or supplementary food.

If you’re just looking for a quick summary, here’s a rundown:

  • Some cereals, including plain Cheerios, corn flakes, and Grape-Nuts, can be fed to birds in moderation.
  • Ensure the cereals are not full of artificial dyes and flavors, and, to the best of your ability, are as close to unsweetened as possible.
  • A good way of offering cereal is to crush it up and give very minimal amounts to wild birds alongside other items that are nutritionally rich for them.

Safe Cereals for Birds

blue tit birds eating cereal grains from a snow covered tree stump

Cereals can be a great addition to the regular meals of birds. As long as you choose the right ones! First, we’ll discuss a few safe cereals that you can feed your birds without any concerns.

Read Next: What Types of Birds Eat Suet?


Oats are an excellent source of nutrition for birds. They’re packed with fiber and essential nutrients, and are a great source of energy.

Plain, unsweetened oats can be a nutritious and safe option for feeding birds. You can use rolled oats, porridge oats, steel-cut—whatever you’d make your oatmeal with. Just ensure that the oats stay raw and dry when you feed them to the birds. Cooked oatmeal can pose a serious danger to birds as it cools and causes their beaks to stick shut.

Whole Grain Cereals

Whole grain cereals are generally a safe option for feeding birds, as they typically contain more nutrients than their refined counterparts. Some examples of whole grain cereals that are safe for birds include plain, original Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, shredded wheat, and bran flakes.

As usual, look for options with minimal additives or sugar content. Just as a reminder, even Cheerios contains 1 gram of added sugars in a 1.5-cup serving. May not seem like much to you in bird-sized servings, but it’s still a lot for a little bird. This underscores the need to keep even low-sugar cereals just as an occasional treat.

Rice and Rice Krispies

Have you heard that birds will explode from eating rice? This is actually a myth, and it’s totally OK to feed birds rice-based cereals. Rice Krispies, for instance, are made from rice grains and are a safe option for birds to eat once in a while. Just make sure to choose plain Rice Krispies, and don’t overdo it as this cereal still contains a fair amount of sugar added to it, not to mention preservatives.

Rice Chex is another cereal that birds can technically eat. However, it contains a whopping 3 grams of sugar per serving, which again, is a lot for little birds.

Corn Flakes and Puffs

Corn flakes and corn puffs are fine for feeding birds, as they are typically made from cornmeal and are easy to digest. It’s important to choose plain, unsweetened varieties.

This puffed corn cereal from Arrowhead is a good one because it contains no added sugar or salt.

Cereals to Avoid

froot loops cereal in a white bowl ready to eat

When feeding birds, it’s essential to provide them with a healthy and balanced diet. Some cereals can contain ingredients that may be harmful to birds. This section will discuss the types of cereals to avoid and why they can be harmful to our feathered friends.

Cooked Oatmeal

Cooked oatmeal is a no-no for birds. This is because as it cools, it gets gummy and can actually make the birds’ bills stick together. If this happens, they can die from starvation. So cooked oats in any form are out.

Sugary and High Carb Cereals

As we’ve been discussing, avoid feeding birds cereals that are high in sugar. Processed sugar isn’t a normal part of avian diets. So sugary breakfast cereals like Frosties or any cereal coated in sugar or honey is not ideal for them.

Cereals with Artificial Colors and Flavors

Cereals containing additives, artificial colors, or flavors can be hard to avoid. But, they can potentially harm birds. These ingredients can cause digestive issues and may even be toxic in some cases.

Examples of cereals with artificial colors and flavorings not to feed birds are Froot Loops and Fruity Pebbles. When looking for cereals to feed your bird, always check the label for added colors, flavors, or other unnecessary additives.

Sulfur Dioxide

Cereals with dried fruits may contain sulfur dioxide as an ingredient. It’s thought that the preservative sulfur dioxide may increase birds’ hyperactivity and aggressiveness.

Note, if you want to avoid sulfur dioxide, you may want to check all the cereals you buy as it’s not just in cereals with dried fruit. Take a look at this brand of Corn Flakes called Poppins. You’ll see sulfur dioxide on the ingredients list there, too.

Cereals Containing Chocolate, Salt, and Lactose

Birds should never be given cereals that contain chocolate, as it is toxic to them. It contains theobromine, a cousin of caffeine, and it can cause vomiting, seizures, and death in birds.

Likewise, avoid offering cereals containing high amounts of salt or other potentially harmful ingredients like lactose. They don’t produce the enzyme lactase like mammals do, and so they can’t really break it down.

When in doubt, do some research. If you’re not sure an ingredient in a cereal is safe for birds and you can’t find the answer, try calling a veterinary clinic. A trusted professional can help guide you.

Alternative Foods to Consider

bluebirds feeding each other on a tray feeder

When it comes to feeding birds, it’s important to provide them with nutritious and safe foods that will support their health. Cereals, in general, should only be offered in moderation. Instead, rely on healthier alternative food options for birds, split into three categories: Seeds and Nuts, Fruits and Vegetables, and Insects and Other Protein Sources.

Seeds and Nuts

Birds can derive significant nutritional benefits from a variety of seeds and nuts. Some popular choices include:

  • Sunflower seeds: Rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, sunflower seeds are a favorite among many bird species.
  • Millet: This small, round seed provides essential nutrients such as calcium and zinc and is easy for birds to digest.
  • Peanuts: Though nutritious, be sure to offer only unsalted, shelled peanuts. Some birds can take peanuts whole and in the shell, but if you’re trying to cater to a variety of birds, go for the shelled nuts.

Fruits and Berries

Fruits and vegetables offer vital vitamins and minerals that can supplement a bird’s diet. Some great options are:

  • Banana: High in potassium and easy to digest, bananas can be an excellent treat for birds, but be sure to remove the peel before offering. Northern cardinals and scarlet tanagers are some birds that enjoy a little banana.
  • Orange: Packed with vitamin C, this citrus fruit can be placed in a hanging feeder or sliced and set out for birds to enjoy. This will especially attract orioles.
  • Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and currants represent a small portion of the many types of berries that wild birds love. Bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxwings, warblers and lots of other birds will come to feast on berries.

Insects and Other Protein Sources

Not all birds eat insects, insects are a vital part of many species’ diets. You can provide bird-friendly protein sources such as:

  • Mealworms: High in protein and a favorite among insectivorous birds, mealworms can be purchased live, dried, or frozen.
  • Waxworms: Similar to mealworms, waxworms are another high-protein option that many bird species enjoy.
  • Insects: If you prefer a more natural approach, offering insects such as crickets or grasshoppers can be an excellent source of protein and minerals.

Feeding Tips for Birds

many different wild bird species at snowy bird feeders in winter

Cereal Size

If cereals are of a larger size, they’re best crushed up before providing to small birds. This is to make sure the birds don’t choke. You might want to crush corn flakes and even Cheerios. Grape-Nuts, however, can be offered as-is.

Finding the Right Balance

Feeding birds the right nutrition is essential for their overall wellbeing. Try to provide not just one food group for birds, but several. Whole grain cereals with minimal additives, sugar, and salt can be treats, but never the main event. And, they should probably be given only on occasion.

Winter Feeding

Winter can be a challenging time for birds, as their natural food sources become scarce. This is when they need additional nutrition and support from us. During winter, be sure to offer foods with a higher fat content, which provide a valuable energy source for birds during cold temperatures.

So break out the suet when it’s cold out! As well, offering mixtures of peanuts, nuts, and dried fruit can attract various species, such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, and titmice. Remember to maintain variety in their diet.

Don’t Forget Water

Water can sometimes get overlooked for birds, particularly in the winter when the landscape freezes over. But birds need fresh water all year long. It requires regular maintenance, but changing their water every day and replacing frozen water with fresh water is important to their survival.


Feeding birds a varied and healthy diet is important to ensure their well-being. Among the many potential food options, certain types of cereal can be a good choice, provided they meet a bird’s nutritional needs and do not contain harmful ingredients.

As a bird enthusiast, it’s crucial to know which cereals are safe and beneficial for avians. Cereals such as Grape-Nuts, Cheerios and Oats are perfectly safe choices. Avoid excessively sugary cereals like Frosties, though.

When feeding cereal to birds, moderation is key. Cereal should only be given as an occasional treat and not as a main food source. It’s essential to balance a bird’s diet by providing other nutritional components such as fruits, seeds, and protein sources. By doing so, you’ll help maintain the overall health and happiness of your feathery friends.

Bear in mind, while some cereals can be a delightful treat for birds, it’s important to choose wisely and offer them in moderation. Paying attention to the ingredients and providing a balanced diet will keep them healthy and satisfied.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can birds consume sugar-free cereal?

Yes, birds can eat sugar-free cereal, as long as it doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients. Plain cereals like bran flakes, toasted oats, and plain Cheerios are good options. Make sure to crush the pieces before feeding them to birds to prevent choking hazards.

Is it safe for birds to eat wheat-based cereals?

Wheat-based cereals can be safe for birds to eat if they are plain and do not contain harmful additives like excess sugar or artificial sweeteners. However, always provide a balanced diet for birds, and make sure to introduce any new food slowly to avoid digestive issues.

Are there any cereals that should be avoided for birds?

Avoid cereals with high sugar content, artificial sweeteners, or chocolate ingredients, as these can be harmful to birds. For example, frosted cereals like Frosties should be avoided because they contain too much sugar, which can be difficult for birds to digest.

How can I safely incorporate cereals into a bird’s diet?

To safely incorporate cereals into a bird’s diet, start by offering a small amount of suitable cereal varieties. Crush the cereal into smaller pieces to prevent choking hazards. It’s important to monitor the bird’s response and make sure the new food doesn’t cause any digestive issues. Always ensure that cereals are just a small part of a balanced diet, which should primarily consist of seeds, fruits, and other nutritious bird foods.

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