As a backyard birdwatcher, there’s nothing more exciting than discovering new food to feed our feathered friends. But have you ever wondered what’s on the menu for these little creatures?
While seeds, nuts, and suet cakes are considered staple foods, we often find unconventional items in our kitchen that we think our birds would love.
One such item is cheese. With its intense flavor and soft texture, cheese would be the perfect treat for our birds. But can birds eat cheese?
Can Birds Eat Cheese?
Yes, birds can eat cheese in small quantities, and in some cases, it is a good source of protein and fats that can help get birds through the winter seasons. Choosing the correct type of cheese to feed your birds is vital to prevent any dietary distress or other complications.
You can follow our guidelines to choose the right cheese for your birds safely and how much cheese should be included in their diet to be beneficial without causing problems.
Can You Feed Cheese To Birds?
Dairy products, as a rule, are not suitable for birds. Although dairy products are not directly toxic for birds and will not kill them outright, they are not ideal.
Birds cannot digest lactose, one of the main components of milk and other dairy products. Dairy products, such as milk and cream, have an exceptionally high lactose content and should not be given to birds.
Eating dairy products may result in high doses of lactose in a bird’s diet, which can lead to digestive distress, causing extreme diarrhea.
While a case of lactose-intolerance-induced diarrhea may not be of too much concern for humans, it can be life-threatening for birds.
Cheese is a dairy product, which may lead to the assumption that cheese is bad for birds, but you would be wrong.
Why Is Cheese Good For Birds?
Cheese is a dairy product but is not high in lactose, the main ingredient in dairy that causes problems for a bird’s digestive system.
Cheese is a fermented dairy product, and much of the lactose in the cheese is broken down, with only small traces of lactose remaining in the final product.
The amount of lactose in the cheese varies in different cheeses, so choosing cheese for your bird is an important aspect.
These factors make cheese safer for birds than other non-fermented dairy products.
What Type Of Cheese Is Best For Birds?
If you are intolerant to lactose, you will know that some cheese products affect you worse than others. The same principle works for birds; the higher the lactose content in the cheese, the worse it will be for birds.
Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan, and pecorino, are cheese types that have been fermented and aged for longer, lowering the cheese’s lactose content.
The high salt content is the biggest concern for birds with some of the hard fermented cheeses. If cheese is salty to the taste for you, then you should not be giving it to birds. You should avoid giving any salted foods to your birds.
Cheddar cheese is a good choice for birds since it has a lower salt content than a cheese such as parmesan.
A medium-hard cheese, like gouda, is a suitable alternative but has a higher lactose component than cheddar. This means less gouda should be given, eliminating the possibility of digestive problems.
Tip: Fermented cheeses are typically safe for birds as long as there is little to no added salt.
What Cheese Should You Avoid Feeding To Birds?
A soft cheese undergoes a shorter fermentation and aging process, resulting in higher lactose content.
Soft cheeses include mozzarella, brie, feta, cream cheese, gorgonzola, and Roquefort. It would be best if you did not offer these cheese types to your birds.
Any spreadable cheeses are also considered soft cheese and are on the list of cheeses that are unsafe for birds to eat.
Avoid giving your birds any blue cheese, even if it is hard cheese. The cheese’s blue part is a mold that can be toxic for birds.
For this reason, you should never feed birds old, moldy cheese from your fridge. The rule is that if you won’t eat the cheese, don’t feed it to birds.
If mold spots are on the cheese, these parts should be cut off and discarded before the cheese is given to your birds.
How Does Cheese Benefit Birds?
Cheese is a nutrient-dense food high in proteins and healthy fats, which can benefit birds at certain times of the year. It is advantageous to insect-eating wild birds during the winter months.
Feeding birds cheese can provide protein and fats when worms, grubs, and other insects are hard to find.
Some seed-eating birds will also eat cheese put out for them for the additional fat and protein content.
Cheese is also rich in calcium, which is good for the birds’ bone health and helps them lay eggs with stronger shells that are less likely to crack.
Do All Birds Eat Cheese?
Wild birds may be more selective eaters of the food you put on your bird feeder, and not all bird species will eat the cheese.
Blackbirds, wrens, robins, sparrows, thrushes, pigeons, finches, and crows, will be attracted to cheese in bird feeders.
Crows can be backyard bullies, so the way to keep crows away from your feeder is to put the cheese out early in the morning. The smaller garden birds are more active in the early morning than the larger species.
This will allow the smaller species to get what they need before the crows and other large species come to the feeder.
Some bird species will ignore the cheese in the feeder and opt for the other foods you offer.
What about pet birds? Can they eat cheese?
Cheese is not suitable for parrots and parakeets, as they are sensitive to even trace amounts of lactose. Cheese can irritate their digestive system quickly, causing stomach pain, flatulence, and diarrhea.
While these symptoms may not be fatal, severe diarrhea can lead to health complications and, in turn, possible death.
How To Feed Cheese To Birds
The primary consideration for feeding cheese is to give less or less frequently. Too much cheese in one sitting or regularly can accumulate trace amounts of lactose, causing problems for the birds.
The best way to feed birds cheese is to do so in small amounts. Use a cheese grater to control the size of the portions you offer.
If you have smaller birds visiting your backyard, fine-grated cheese is better. A medium-grated cheese is suitable for medium to larger birds.
Place a handful of cheese on the feeder, and spread it among the other food you put out for the birds.
Only offer cheese once or twice a week on your bird feeder to avoid giving the birds too much cheese at once.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can Birds Eat Mozzarella Cheese?
No, Mozzarella cheese should not be offered to birds as it is a soft cheese with higher amounts of lactose, which is unsafe for birds.
Can Birds Eat Cream Cheese?
No, cream cheese is a soft cheese with a high lactose content and should not be fed to birds.
Can Birds Eat Cottage Cheese?
Yes, birds can eat cottage cheese in small quantities as an occasional treat. The moderate lactose content of cottage cheese makes it a safe option for birds to enjoy. Just be sure to feed the birds plain, unsalted cottage cheese.
Can Birds Eat Non-Dairy Cheese?
Yes, non-dairy cheese can be offered to birds in small amounts. Non-dairy cheeses are made with plant-based ingredients and do not contain lactose, making them a safe option for birds. Read the product’s label first to ensure it does not have added sugar, salt, or other unhealthy ingredients.
Can Birds Eat Cheese Puffs?
No, cheese puffs are not a safe option for birds. They contain high amounts of fat and salt and can cause health problems if consumed in large quantities. Additionally, many cheese puff products’ have artificial ingredients and preservatives, making them an unhealthy option for birds.
Can Birds Eat Parmesan Cheese?
Yes, birds can eat parmesan cheese in small amounts as an occasional treat. Parmesan is a hard cheese containing lower lactose amounts, making it safer for birds to consume than other soft cheeses. Just be sure the parmesan has not been artificially flavored with added salt or sugar.
Can Birds Eat Moldy Cheese?
No, birds should not consume moldy cheese. Moldy cheese can contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness in birds if consumed. It is best to discard any old or moldy cheese rather than offer it to the birds.
Can Birds Eat Processed Cheese?
No, processed cheeses should not be offered to birds as they contain artificial ingredients, preservatives, high amounts of fat and sodium, and low nutritional value. These unhealthy ingredients can be dangerous if consumed in large quantities. It is best to offer fresh or natural cheese that contains no additives or preservatives.
So, Can birds Eat Cheese?
Birds can eat cheese, which can be beneficial by offering protein, minerals, fats, and vitamins that are good for their health.
You can offer cheese in small, infrequent helpings to avoid overloading the birds’ digestive systems with lactose, which can lead to discomfort and health problems.
Hard cheeses are the best to offer your birds, with mild cheddar being the best option. Soft cheeses, cheeses with mold, and pungent or salty cheeses should be avoided.
If you have any cheese-feeding experience with your birds, let us know! We would love to hear about your knowledge and practical experience that we can share with our other readers. Learning is a shared experience!
Remember to check our other articles for more information about birds and nature. Also, remember to share this article with your friends, family, and fellow bird lovers!