Feeding birds bread (not harmful but no nutritional value)

Modern Bread is Void of Nutrients

Most bread is very unhealthy for birds due to being heavily processed and containing preservatives, salt and sugar. The main ingredient is refined flour where all the nutritious part of the grain have been removed. Bread contains little protein and this is vital for birds to develop muscles and feathers. It fills a bird’s stomach but does not provide much nutrition. Bread also lacks fat and birds are reliant on fats for energy.

Modern bread is not that good for humans either, more of that below, but the health issues with bread are exasperated with birds. This applies to all bread products like bagels, crackers and doughnuts.

Wing deformities from poor diets can mean birds are unable to fly and lose their main defence mechanism. The deformity angel wing is where a wing joint is twisted and feathers point outwards instead of against the body. This is incurable in adult birds and generally leads to an early death. In young birds angel wing can be resolved with treatment to bind the wing and a nutritional diet. This is prevalent in areas where ducks are regularly fed bread.

Birds grow much quicker than us so a few days of a bad diet can cause irreversible damage.

In urban areas bread is causing malnutrition and obesity in swans. Ducklings that are fed large amounts of bread don’t get the nutrients needed for growth. This causes them to develop deformed wings, become aggressive, develop diabetes and hypertension.

Most garden birds are unable to metabolise salt and it’s not something that would naturally be found in significant amounts in their diet. Feeding processed foods like bread that are high in salt affects their blood pressure and nervous system.


Always soak in water

Soaking bread, from the white slice to the healthier option should be all soaked as to make it easier for small garden birds to digest it.

Firstly, this will prevent small garden birds or there chicks from choking on the large, dry pieces, well pre-soaking will help it settle in there bellies.

If feeding stale bread to birds then making it wet makes more sense. If you've attempted to chew and swallow stale bread yourself, you'll understand why.

Moistening the bread is one thing, but it may also be a good idea to remove the part that is tough to chew and swallow the most, and that is the crust.

Removing the crust does not make the whole thing easier to digest, its just something you can do to make it easier to feed on.

If the bread crust you're using contains the important seeds, then do not remove it.

Pumpkin Seed

We've only found Polish bakery pumpkin seed bread, but it is widely available from the supermarket.

Not a wheat bread but a natural sourdough based bread with use of rye flour.

Rather than the large pumpkin seeds being baked in the bread, its limited to the harder outer crust only, so make sure you leave the crust on.

Quite the middle range in terms of protein and fibre, so doesn't offer anything more than birds need. If removing the seeds to feed birds only, that would be a start. This The Polish Bakery Pumpkin Seed bread is available from Tesco.

Guarantee birds eat crumbs

Any backyard birds attending your platform feeder, or where else you place the bread crumbs are sure likely to feed on bread.

Know that bread does not imitate or appear to be anything like natural bird food in the wild, so that’s not to say most birds would eat your bread crumbs.

Likely contenders of your bread crumbs would always be from the reliable but invasive House Sparrow, in which the species would take to most household scraps.

Not expected is the rather larger common Grackle who does eat bread or bread crumbs.

Remarkably, the common Grackle can be seen to soak the bread crumbs in water first, as to allow it to be ingested much easier, and safer.

Bread crumbs can be quite sparse so more difficult for larger, more nuisance birds to eat, as oppose to a whole slice of bread that can be eaten right their by pigeons or taken away by crows.

Bird species not mentioned do eat bread crumbs but not really known to be a popular choice with them – as they prefer to stick to a strict diet of seeds if that is what they eat in the wild, including nuts, wild fruits and grain.

People need to know, please pass it on: Bread is bad for birds!

Without realizing the consequences, and with all the best intentions, we’re doing more harm than good when we give birds ‘people food’.

Bread is Bad for Birds. This one little bit of info could make a big difference to the health and future of our wild birds. Please share this with everyone you know who loves wild birds.


If you want a list of additional food your parrot can eat, check out our guide: What do parrots eat?

We hope these ideas give you some inspiration to start baking for your parrots or other pet birds. Below is a video showing bird bread made from scratch. Baking bird bread can be an enriching experience for you both, and will certainly help you get your stubborn birds to eat more healthily.

2. Free Food Isn’t All It’s Quacked Up to Be

Treehugger / Christian Yonkers

In addition to the nutritional issues posed by abundant bread, too many handouts of any kind raise a wide range of problems for waterfowl. These include:


Ducks and geese naturally find habitats that offer enough food, but handouts can lure large crowds to areas that wouldn't normally support them. Natural foods are also widely scattered, letting birds eat in relative privacy, while competition is often fierce and stressful at artificial feeding sites.


Too many birds means too many droppings. That’s a health risk, both in water and on land. Plus, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation points out, “diseases generally not transmissible in a wild setting find overcrowded and unsanitary conditions very favorable.”

Delayed Migration

Artificial feeding has been known to shorten or even eliminate migration patterns of waterfowl. They may be reluctant to leave a reliable food source despite the onset of winter, and then struggle to survive as temperatures fall — especially if the cold discourages their human feeders.


Our gifts may also spur a few other negative changes in birds' behavior. When adult ducks become obsessed with free bread, for example, they may fail to give their ducklings a sufficient education in foraging, thus committing them to a life as beggars. Once birds are dependent on handouts, they tend to lose their fear of humans and behave more aggressively.

What Kind of Bread is Okay for Birds?

If you want a kind of bread that is ok for birds then feed the birds with bread that is healthy for humans is a good line to toe. Organic wholemeal or multi-grain is preferable.

To make bread even better for birds you can laden peanut butter all over the slice before breaking it up into smaller pieces.  Peanut butter is high in fat, calories, fat and magnesium.

Can Birds Eat Stale Bread?

Can Birds Eat Stale Bread?

Stale bread is bad for birds, thus, the loaf should be fresh.   Bread is often harder when it goes stale, however, the reason stale bread is bad for birds is that it has started to deteriorate.

Using thawed bread (like other types of frozen food) can lose some of its nutritional benefits too.  As always, fresh bread is best should you not have more suitable bird foods to hand…

Can Birds Eat Mouldy Bread?

Mouldy bread already has fungus growing on it and can be very dangerous to birds.  Inhaling the spores can affect their lungs and potentially cause serious damage or death to a bird.

Sandwich Foods to Avoid

Under no circumstances should some common human sandwich items be offered to birds. Processed lunch meat, sugar-free or low-sugar spreads, soft cheeses, and bacon may make great sandwiches for humans, but none of these items are great for birds. They contain greater quantities of salt and other chemicals that can be even more unhealthy or outright dangerous for birds, even if only offered very rarely. Similarly, no items that are overly stale, moldy, or spoiled should ever be fed to birds.

Is Bread Healthy For Us?

Humans have been eating bread for thousands of years but traditional bread is very different to modern bread. Traditional bread is made with soaked, sprouted and fermented whole grains. Traditional breadmaking retains the nutrients, disables enzyme inhibitors, reduces anti-nutrients and therefore makes the nutrients more easily absorbed.

Modern bread is made with heavily refined flour without the healthy bran and germ meaning it’s just empty calories. Mass-produced bread is made with quick action yeast and has a high GI value that spikes blood sugar levels quickly. Bread products these days are very different to the type of bread that has been a part of the human diet for thousands of years.

All of my Healthy Recipes are free of wheat, refined sugar and gluten. Looking for a sprouted bread loaf then try my Buckwheat Almond Chia Bread. Or fancy a pizza then try my Quinoa Crust with Cashew Mozzarella one. For muffins my Sundried Tomato Quinoa Muffins are always a winner. For cakes I’ve got over 20 Healthy Cake Recipes that are all free of refined flour, sugar and gluten.


All types of bread can be digested by birds, but ideally it should only be just one component in a varied diet. Bread does not contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler. Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.

Food left on the ground overnight can attract rats. Soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread, and brown bread is better than white. Crumbled bread is suitable in small quantities, but moisten if it is very dry. During the breeding season, make sure bread is crumbled into tiny pieces so that it is safer to eat. Dry chunks of bread will choke baby birds, and a chick on a diet of bread may not develop into a healthy fledgling.

Recipes For Bird Bread and Treats

Here are some recipes to help you begin baking for parrots. Experimentation is strongly encouraged as you take these as a starting point for creations that satisfy your particular parrots. Just remember the safety points above and let your imagination and your bird’s appetite lead the way. Here are two recipes found at parrotparrot.com.

Bird Bread Recipe #1

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 eggs with shells
  • 3 Tbs oil (your preference)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Grease an 8″ pan with Pam. Mix dry ingredients. Wash eggs then pulverize in a blender. Mix in oil and buttermilk, then mix in dry ingredients. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into small squares and freeze.

Variations: Fruits, veggies, peppers, nuts, etc. can be added to the mixture if you like.

Bird Bread Recipe #2: For Eclectus

This recipe makes a “heavy” bread, not as light as you would prepare for yourself, but the birds love it! Notice that it contains very little baking powder (some baking powders contain aluminum), no added sugar or other sweeteners, and no added salt.

In a large bowl combine the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • l cup currants or raisins
  • 1 cup nuts (pine, almond, walnut, pecan)
  • 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 twenty-nine ounce can of solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 thirty-two ounce bottle of papaya nectar
  • 1/2 cup of sunflower or safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Add enough water or juice to make a pourable batter. Use two large well-greased baking pans. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Cool and slice. Can be frozen.

Bird Bread Recipe #3

Here is another recipe:

  • 1 box of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables: use a mixture of different varieties, like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and peppers. Many birds love hot peppers, the spicier, the better. Birds who usually avoid all vegetables will go crazy for a ghost pepper.
  • Fruit (optional), such as bananas or strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons of seed or millet
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Food processor or vegetable chopper
  • Muffin tin
  • Cupcake liners
  • Mixing bowl

Recipe #3 Instructions

  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Put the vegetables in the food processor or vegetable chopper until they are all finely chopped
  • Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl, but put the shells in the processor and chop them as well; the shells are extremely nutritious for birds
  • Combine the corn muffin mix, eggs, water, and shells into the mixing bowl
  • Stir in the vegetables; the mixture will be very thick and clumpy
  • Line the muffin tin with cupcake liners and fill each spot with the mixture
  • Bake until golden, usually 10-15 minutes
  • Allow to cool completely before giving to your bird

How Often Should I Feed Bread to Birds?

How Often Should I Feed Bread to Birds?

There’s nothing wrong with feeding small amounts of bread to birds every few days. Let’s be realistic though, it generally isn’t the same birds visiting our gardens or homes, day in day out.

Don’t get me wrong, some birds will visit you especially if you’re feeding them.

To be on the safe side when feeding bread, I would break it into small pieces and put them in different places.  Try scattering the bread around your garden or sprinkle some on a bird table.


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