Can Wild Birds Eat Popcorn?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: September 2, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

If you love to feed the birds in your area (maybe even your backyard), you’ve probably asked yourself: can wild birds eat popcorn?

Yes, wild birds can eat popcorn. Many birds love the taste of popcorn, and they’re drawn to its crunchy texture. While popcorn shouldn’t be the main food group for wild birds, it provides a fun, satisfying treat now and then.

Can Wild Birds Eat Popped Popcorn?

Yes, wild birds can eat popped popcorn. At least they can eat most types of popcorn. If you plan to treat them occasionally, it’s good to know which types to avoid and which to embrace. Since birds love seeds and grains, they also love popcorn, providing a fun treat for them.

Can Birds Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Birds can eat popcorn kernels, too. They’re hard in texture and more difficult to digest, however, so it’s recommended to boil them before offering them as a treat. This helps the birds break down the hulls better once consumed.

How do you do this?

Boil them in plain water for about 3 minutes. No need to make them mushy, just a little softer. Skip any seasonings and keep it plain.

It’s also good to remember that popcorn (even the plain kernels) contains a lot of insoluble fiber, so it’s best to keep it to a small amount. Don’t try to feed birds a lot of popcorn at a time, or they’ll have digestive issues.

Can Birds Eat Corn?

Birds can eat corn, although not all types of birds enjoy it. Cracked corn is the type that birds enjoy. This is made of dried, cracked corn kernels, which are easier to eat and digest than whole kernels.

Some types of birds that enjoy cracked corn are:

  • Pigeons
  • Wild turkeys
  • Quail
  • Cardinals
  • Ducks
  • Doves
  • Blackbirds
  • Jays
  • Sparrows
  • Pheasants
cracked corn

Be careful leaving this feed out, though, especially in your backyard, if you’re only trying to attract birds. Other types of wildlife, such as deer, raccoons, and chipmunks, can also get a hankering for cracked corn. We know from first-hand experience how much squirrels love popcorn!

Things to Know About Feeding Popcorn to Birds

When feeding popcorn to birds, it’s important to note a few rules so you don’t overdo it and end up causing problems for the birds. The most crucial element here is to ensure you’re feeding them plain popcorn because their bodies cannot handle fat and sodium like humans.

Avoid Additives

When feeding popcorn to birds, it’s important to remember their little bodies can’t handle butter and sugar the way human bodies can. Make sure you’re only feeding them plain popcorn to avoid giving them tummy trouble.

TIP – Don’t give them microwave popcorn, even if it’s ‘plain.’

Microwave popcorn contains hydrocarbons that can be lethal to birds. With their small body size, even a small amount can have a big effect. If you want to feed wild birds popcorn, pop it yourself and keep it plain. No oil, butter, salt, or seasonings at all.

Try Making Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls can be a tasty treat for your bird friends when prepared correctly. Plus, they can be customized in so many ways. It can be a fun activity for you, your family, and the birds (of course).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 cups of popcorn (air-popped; plain)
  • 4 tablespoons of unsweetened nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower, etc.)
  • 1 cup of wild bird seed
  • ¼ cup dried fruit (preferably unsweetened cranberries, blueberries, raisins, cherries, or apricots)
  • A small amount of oil (just for your hands)

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Pop the popcorn. Since you need to make it plain (no oil or butter), this works best in an air popper.
  2. Mix the popped popcorn and the nut butter in a bowl.
  3. Add the bird seed and dried fruit; mix carefully until fully combined.
  4. Oil your hands slightly to prevent sticking (any oil is fine).
  5. Roll the mixture into balls about 2-3” wide (about the size of a tennis ball).

That’s it!

You can string these, tie them to a tree, or even try to hand-feed them to the birds. Whichever method you try, remember they do contain some fresh ingredients. If you’re not feeding all of them at once, store the remainder in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Make it a Treat

Popcorn shouldn’t be a regular part of any bird’s diet, whether the bird is wild or a pet. While they enjoy grains, the high amount of cellulose isn’t optimal for their health. When you do give popcorn to birds, make it a treat!

Make some popcorn balls, adding in some other yummy treats such as cranberries and bird seed. Make it a fun bird-watching experience for you and others.

Here are some other foods you can mix in to make a bird treat mix:

  • Peas
  • Berries
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pomegranate
  • Cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Cherries
  • Currants
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges (no seeds)
  • Apples (no seeds)
  • Fruit rinds
wild bird

This is not an exhaustive list, but a great starting point to feeding wild birds in your area a satisfying treat now and then. A good rule of thumb is to choose low-sugar fruits without seeds.

Benefits of Feeding Popcorn to Birds

Popcorn does contain nutrients beneficial to a bird’s natural diet. These nutrients are present in both unpopped kernels and popped popcorn. Popcorn balls are even better, as they contain other foods that provide nutrients.

These are some of the more beneficial nutrients birds can benefit from:

  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Carbohydrates

Be careful, though…

Just because popcorn contains some nutrients that can be good for birds doesn’t mean it should be a regular part of their diet. Popcorn should be an occasional bird treat and only be fed in small amounts.

So, if you like watching birds and want to attract some to your backyard or your favorite park, feel free to feed them some popcorn. They’re sure to appreciate it if you offer popped popcorn, popcorn kernels, cracked corn, or popcorn balls.

You may even get some up-close time as they enjoy their snack.

Try reading about chickens and popcorn next.

Sources

https://learnbirdwatching.com/can-birds-eat-popcorn/
https://www.thespruce.com/feeding-birds-cracked-corn-385832
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/#:~:text=Feeding%20Birds-,Shelled%20and%20cracked%20corn,,%20cranes,%20and%20other%20species.

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