What Kitchen Scraps Can I Feed Backyard Birds?

Kitchen scraps you can feed backyard birds

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Birds are brilliant at finding their own food but sometimes, especially in winter when natural food sources are scarce, they may need a little help. A lot of people offer leftovers from their kitchen to the birds and this is a great way to help your feathered friends as well as reduce food waste.

However, you have to be mindful that not all kitchen scraps will be suitable for birds. This guide provides you with information on the safest and most appropriate food for your avian visitors.

Kitchen Scraps You Can Feed Backyard Birds

Kitchen scraps that you can feed backyard birds

If you don’t want to throw leftovers out and don’t have a composter then you might consider offering your kitchen scraps to the birds. They’ll surely appreciate the extra food and the following foods are ideal for birds.


You can offer vegetables to birds but always make sure that they are cooked as the birds may find it difficult to digest raw veggies. However, note that cooking does take away some nutrients so try not to overcook.

Things like carrots, potatoes, peas, pumpkin, sweetcorn, parsley, asparagus, and peppers are all suitable. It’s a good idea to mix vegetables with sunflower seeds as these will deliver the fats and proteins that the birds need.

As well as cooking the veg, you should also ensure that it is thoroughly washed to remove any chemicals like pesticides which farmers often use when growing.

Cereal & Oats

Porridge oats are great for birds but only when they are served dry. If you mix them with milk, there is a risk that the paste will dry around the beak and seal it. Moreover, birds are not able to digest milk so it should be left out of their diet.

You can offer other cereals but make sure to stick to those that are natural and don’t have artificial colors or added sugar. Things like granola and muesli are ideal and even if they’ve gone stale, provided there’s no mold, they’ll be fine for the birds.

Pasta & Rice

You can use your leftover pasta to feed the birds provided it doesn’t have any sauce, oil, cheese, or other unsuitable foods for birds on it. If it does have, you can always rinse these away with fresh water.  You’ll also want to make sure to cut it into more manageable pieces for the birds.

There’s a myth that birds cannot eat rice which says that, once the rice reaches the stomach, it will expand and explode. But think about it; in order for that to happen, the rice would have to cook and the bird doesn’t have an oven in its stomach.

Just make sure that, like pasta, the rice is free from any unsuitable foods like sauce and rinse it well before serving.


Cheese is a great food for birds especially when the weather is colder and the birds require higher amounts of fat. Much like other foods, you will need to ensure that the cheese is cut into small pieces; using a cheese grater is the best way.

You can offer stale hard cheeses but avoid anything with signs of mold or decay. Birds won’t do well with soft cheese so be sure to also avoid this.

Pet Food

If your pets have a lot of leftovers, these can be shared with the birds. You can use both wet and dry pet food but if you’re going for the latter, soak it in water first to soften it up. Alternatively, you can crush the dry food to form crumbs which will be much easier for the birds to manage.


As long as the meat is unsalted and shows no signs of rotting, it can be used for birds. Birds need protein and meat is one of the best ways of giving it to them.

Things like beef fat trimmings and bones are excellent. Birds naturally eat insects to get protein but these aren’t always available, particularly in winter so offering meats like bacon rind is a viable alternative.

It is worth noting that, with meat, a lot of attention will be attracted from other animals so try to choose a location that won’t be a problem. There are bird feeders you can use that’ll deter things like squirrels and cats.

Eggs & Eggshells

Eggs might not seem like the obvious choice for birds but they’re particularly nutritious during mating season when the female needs a lot of calcium to produce her eggs. For this reason, you can sprinkle egg shells onto a bird feeder as long as you bake them for 20 minutes to kill any bacteria.

You can also offer cooked eggs which are a valuable source of nutrition for all kinds of birds.


If you’re going to feed nuts to the local birdlife then you must make sure they are plain. No flavored or salted nuts will be suitable.

You’ll find that you can buy peanuts as bird food but there are other types that are suitable such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans. Just be sure to finely chop them to make them easier for the birds to eat.


Just like vegetables, fruits make a great source of nutrition for wild birds and many people have a lot of leftover fruit so it saves it from going to waste. However, there are certain types of fruits that are better for birds so be mindful about what you offer.

You can use both fresh and dried fruit with things like apples, raisins, melon, grapes, bananas, and berries all being great choices.

Oriole bird feeders are brilliant for feeding things like slices of orange so it’s worth considering investing in one if you’re serious about using fruit as a main food for your local birdlife. It’s also worth keeping in mind that different fruits will attract different birds. Think about what wildlife is in your area and then find out which fruits they like best.

For example, robins and bluebirds go wild for grapes, whereas berries might bring in mockingbirds and waxwings.

As with veggies, you will need to properly prepare your fruits by washing them to remove any pesticides and cut them into suitably sized pieces for the type of bird you are trying to attract.


Pastry is another excellent food for wild birds as it contains a lot of fats. This makes it great as a winter treat for the local avian community. What’s great is that you can use both raw and cooked pastry but just make sure that it isn’t high in sugar or salt.

Peanut Butter

Birds love peanuts so it won’t come as a surprise that they also go mad for peanut butter. As with other types of food, it’s essential to make sure you aren’t using a heavily salted product as this is not beneficial to the birds.

You can add peanut butter to orange halves in your oriole feeder or smear it over a pinecone. You’ll find that birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, and wrens all come flocking.

Toxic or Bad Foods You Should Avoid Feeding Backyard Birds

Toxic or bad foods to avoid feeding backyard birds

As we have seen, there are a lot of great foods you can offer to local wild birds. But there are some that should be avoided as they are not beneficial to the birds’ health.


For years, people have thrown bread out for the birds with nothing but good intentions. While bread isn’t poisonous to birds, it doesn’t have any nutritional value. If the bird fills up on bread, it isn’t going to have room for nutritionally beneficial foods and its health will suffer as a consequence.

That said, it should be OK to offer very small amounts of bread to the birds as an occasional treat.


Milk is a food created for mammals and since birds are not mammals, it goes without saying that milk is of no benefit to them. In fact, they find it incredibly difficult to digest as their bodies just aren’t equipped to break it down and are considered to be lactose intolerant.

As well as avoiding milk, you should ensure not to offer similar products such as soft cheese as the birds will have very similar problems when eating this.

Desiccated Coconut

If you were going to give the birds desiccated coconut, then you would need to make sure that it had been well soaked otherwise it could be fatal due to swelling once inside the bird. But since there are so many other food options, it’s best just to avoid it altogether.


Many see avocado as a super healthy food and it is for humans. But for birds, avocados can be fatal and this is due to a toxin found in the leaves known as persin. If a bird eats it then this can lead to organ failure, particularly the heart and lungs. Ultimately, eating avocado could lead to the sudden death of a bird so should be avoided at all costs.


We would hope that most people would see common sense and avoid offering caffeine to birds or any other animal, for that matter. But while we don’t want to teach you to suck eggs, it’s important that we point out that caffeine can be fatal for birds.

Not only can it cause symptoms such as hyperactivity and arrhythmia, but it can also lead to heart failure in birds.


Chocolate might be a tasty treat for you and I, but it’s not as good for birds. At best, it can cause digestive issues such as vomiting and diarrhea in birds. But when large amounts are consumed and the bird experiences serious poisoning, the central nervous system will be affected, which can cause seizures and will eventually kill the bird.


Throughout this guide, we have stressed the importance of not offering salted foods to the birds. But why is this?

In short, salt is toxic to birds as they are unable to metabolize it. It is unlikely that a bird would ingest large amounts of salts as it would be naturally deterred but in the event that it did, it can affect the central nervous system ultimately resulting in death.

Fruit Pits & Apple Seeds

Pits and seeds from certain fruits contain cyanide and this can be lethal for a bird. Things like apple seeds, cherry pits, and those from plums, apricots, and peaches also contain high levels of this toxin. While it might be OK to offer the fruit to the birds, all pits and seeds should be taken out first.

Onion & Garlic

When birds chew onions, sulfur compounds within the vegetable are released and this can cause irritation within the mouth. This can also lead to the development of ulcers which can burst and when this happens, it is possible for the bird to develop anemia.

Similar to onions, garlic contains a chemical known as allicin and this has a very similar effect causing anemia and even weakness in birds.


While you might see mushrooms as another vegetable food for birds, these are actually a type of fungus and can cause digestive issues in birds. While this might not necessarily be fatal, it is unpleasant for the birds so mushrooms should be avoided. There are some mushroom varieties whose stems and caps contain a chemical that is known to cause liver failure in birds.

Uncooked Beans

You can give the birds cooked beans but uncooked beans contain a chemical known as hemagglutinin and this can kill a bird. Not only this, but dry, uncooked beans can be a choking hazard for birds so should be left off the bird table.

Tips & Advice When Feeding Wild Birds Scraps

Tips & advice when feeding backyard birds scraps

You’re feeding backyard birds because you want to give them a little nutritional help, save your scraps, and attract birdlife to your garden. But if you want the most success for all of these things then you’ll need to make sure you offer food in the right way. Here are some handy tips for getting the most out of feeding scraps to the birds.

1. Never Leave Food on the Floor

Birds aren’t the only animals in your garden so you want to make sure that other creatures cannot get in on the feeding action. By leaving food on the floor, you risk attracting pests and vermin such as squirrels, mice, and rats. It is best to purchase a platform feeder and put this somewhere that only the birds will be attracted to.

2. Crumble Harder Foods into Smaller Pieces & Soak it in Water

Birds may find it difficult, or even dangerous, to eat large pieces of hard food. To make feeding safer and easier for your feathered friends, be sure to cut food into bite-size pieces.

If the food is very hard, such as dried pet food, you can soak it in water to soften it before serving it to wild birds.

3. Replace Food Before it Spoils

As with humans, birds will become sick if they eat rotten, moldy, or otherwise spoiled food. Keep an eye on the bird feeder and replace any food that looks as though it might be on its way out. Never leave it until it has started to spoil.

4. Clean Out Bird Feeders Regularly

If you don’t clean your bird feeders regularly, they will soon become riddled with bacteria and this can cause health problems for your local birdlife.

Make sure to remove all old food and take the feeder apart for cleaning as this will allow you to get to all parts of it. You can use hot, soapy water to clean the feeders and a bristle brush is ideal for getting into the nooks and crannies.

When you’ve finished cleaning the feeder, allow it to dry completely before restocking it with food and putting it back out. If you want to get things really clean, you can also use a disinfectant spray.

5. Provide Scraps in Smaller Quantities

Unless you know there’s a flock of thousands of birds in the vicinity, there’s very little point in putting out mountains of food at once. If you do, it’ll just spoil before the birds have a chance to finish it all. For this reason, it’s much better to serve small portions at a time. You can always top it up once they’ve finished it, and there will be less waste.

6. Offer a Varied Selection of Scraps

Just like us, birds require a variety of foods to ensure they get all of the most vital nutrients. This is why it’s important to offer different scraps, as giving just one type of food isn’t going to be nutritionally beneficial. What’s more, putting out different foods means that you’ll attract a wider range of species.

Frequently Asked Questions

kitchen scraps for backyard birds

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