Can Birds Eat Popcorn?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: August 4, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Are you one of those people that takes great pleasure in feeding the wild birds in your yard? Or do you have a parakeet or budgie that is the center of your world?

It is often hard to know what you can feed birds as a tasty treat, so in this article, we are going to

Is Popcorn Safe for Birds?

The jury is out on this one. Whilst organic air-popped popcorn is considered to be a healthy treat for birds, salted popcorn or caramel popcorn are most definitely not.

A bird’s natural diet does not consist of eating sugars, salts, artificial flavors and preservatives, so when we start feeding them, we need to be aware of this. They can’t read the labels, so it is up to us to do it for them!

The Nutritional Value of Organic Air Popped Popcorn

Organic air-popped popcorn is a nutritious and healthy treat for both birds and ourselves, it is rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in saturated fat. Birds can even eat the unpopped corn kernels, as these too are rich in vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy diet.

As with all things, popcorn should be given to birds in moderation. Both popcorn, and popcorn kernels, should only be fed to birds as a treat and should not form the basis for their diet.

Eating kernels alone can impact their crop, and eating only popped corn can inhibit their digestive process. As much as we love popcorn, it is not healthy to get our entire nutrition from a single food source, it is the same for birds.

The Effects of Salted Popcorn on a Birds Diet

Salt is an essential part of the diet of all animals on earth, and you may notice that salt is added to the bird feed you buy from the store however, excessive salt is very bad for birds and can lead to kidney failure and death if fed to birds in high quantities for too long.

Salt occurs naturally in plain air-popped popcorn at approximately 1mg per cup, whereas in virtually every other type of store-bought popcorn, it is around 100mg or higher per cup. So you can easily see, just by looking at the salt levels, store-bought popcorn is definitely off the menu!

The Effects of Sugar on a Birds Diet

As you can imagine, sugar is not great for birds, and popcorn that contains any kind of sugar should be avoided if at all possible. Not only can it affect a bird’s physical health, causing problems such as, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, it can affect their mental well-being too, and is related to depression, hyperactivity, and stress.

But don’t panic if your cheeky feathered friend has nipped down and stolen a sugary treat; as long as he or she is not a repeat offender, it should do them no long-term harm.

The Effect of Fats and Oils on a Birds Diet

Interestingly fats, including saturated fats, are extremely good for many species of birds. The high energy derived from eating fat can not only increase productivity in certain species during the breeding season but also helps to keep them warm through the long cold nights of winter.

However, research has revealed that not all species react well to additional fats in their diet during the breeding season, and there are several species in fact, where breeding productivity can be adversely affected by this nutritional addition.

In short, adding fat regularly to wild birds’ diets, unless carefully monitored, should only be done in the wintertime.

You should also be very wary of adding any kind of fat to the diet of domestic birds. They tend to be less active than wild birds, and a fat-rich diet can lead to obesity and all the health risks that go with it.

Additives and Preservatives that are in Popcorn, and the Effect on Bird Health

A lot of “off the shelf” popcorns contain additives and preservatives that could be bad for a bird’s health.

There is a vast list of additives and preservatives contained in most commercial popcorn that are known to cause physical and neurological problems in humans; however, there has been very little significant research on their effect of them on birds. Therefore it is recommended to err on the side of caution and always go with organic popcorn wherever possible.

Genetically Modified (GMO) Corn

The highly controversial GMO corn has thankfully not reached the popcorn market. Whilst most other species of corn have now been cross-pollinated with GMO corn, the corn used for popcorn is of a different enough genetic species that this cross-pollination has not occurred.

Summary

The answer to the question: Can Birds Eat Popcorn? Is YES, if you want to take the time to air cook organic popcorn for the birds in your yard or your feathery companion at home, then they can consume this safely as a healthy, nutritious treat.

Furthermore, in wintertime, the addition of oil, or unsalted fats, will not only be a healthy treat for your wild birds but may help them survive through the cold nights and lean days that could otherwise be fatal for them.

That said, regularly throwing out popcorn that has salt or sugar added for the birds in your yard is a definite NO.

Likewise, if your pet bird is in the habit of sitting on your shoulder asking for treats whenever they see the popcorn bowl come out, maybe you could consider making him or her their own small bowl of healthy air-popped corn to bring out at the same time.

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