Cracking the Kernel Conundrum: Can Birds Eat Popcorn?

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Can birds eat popcorn

As an enthusiastic backyard birdwatcher, I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to attract and feed the birds that visit my backyard. Recently, I found myself snacking on a bowl of popcorn while observing the birds in my backyard, and a thought crossed my mind – can birds eat popcorn? 

I did some digging and was surprised by what I discovered. Yes, you can feed backyard birds popcorn. Birds can indeed eat popcorn as a treat now and again, but there are some important considerations we have to make before we can offer popcorn to our birds.

Can Birds Eat Popcorn?

Yes, birds can eat popcorn either popped or as kernels. Popcorn can be a safe and healthy snack for backyard birds to eat. However, the popcorn must be air-popped, unsalted, unflavored, and without added chemicals. Popcorn contains many beneficial nutrients, including carbohydrates, calcium, and iron, and is an excellent source of fiber.

In this post, I’ll be sharing my findings on whether all types of popcorn are a safe and nutritious snack for birds and whether or not it’s something you should consider adding to your backyard bird-feeding routine. 

So, grab a bowl of popcorn and join me as we explore this crunchy treat and its potential as a bird-friendly snack.

Can I feed Birds popcorn?

The best part about popcorn is that you can feed it to birds, popped or unpopped as a kernel.

To avoid overfeeding your birds on popcorn, we recommend giving it to them once a week as a snack (not a full meal, but in small amounts).

Compared to other foods, popcorn provides very little nutritional value to birds. While popcorn does contain some nutrients, it lacks several important ones, which birds need from other food sources.

Although there are few immediate concerns, if a bird continues to eat only popcorn, they develop nutrient deficiencies which lead to health issues. When eating popcorn, birds “feel” full but don’t get the other needed minerals and nutrients.

Do Birds Eat Popcorn?

Although it may take some getting used to initially, most birds eventually eat popcorn.

Whether a bird eats popcorn or not depends significantly on the type of bird it is. Seed eaters and true omnivores are the most likely type of birds to take popcorn.

Many wild birds eat popcorn, whether popped or in the kernel, but small birds might struggle with kernels.

Types of birds that may eat popcorn

Popcorn may be of interest to a variety of bird species, including:

  1. Wild birds: Wild birds are often drawn to human food sources, especially in urban areas where natural food sources may be limited. Birds like pigeons, doves, sparrows, and crows are common urban bird species that may be attracted to plain popcorn.
  2. Domestic birds: Domestic birds such as parrots and other pet birds may also be interested in popcorn. Many pet bird owners enjoy offering their feathered friends a variety of treats to keep them entertained and engaged.
  3. Birds in zoos and other animal facilities: Birds in zoos and other animal facilities may also be fed plain popcorn as part of their diet or as an enrichment activity.

Can Birds Eat Popcorn Kernels?

The nutritional value stays roughly the same either way. Most commercial bird seeds contain a percentage of crushed/cracked corn.

We recommend boiling (for 3 minutes) or cracking the whole kernels before feeding them to your backyard birds, making it easier for them to open and eat. Particularly for smaller birds who may struggle with whole seeds, the last thing you want is it getting stuck somewhere along the digestive tract.

While it is usually better to “process” the kernels, some birds don’t mind eating the unpopped seeds.

Avoid Pre-Popped Popcorn From The Store

Additionally, we recommend that if you want to feed popped popcorn to your birds, you purchase the whole kernels and pop the corn at home—that way, you know that nothing extra was added to the popcorn during the cooking process.

Ensure that you air-pop the popcorn and don’t add oil, salt, butter, or flavorings, as these are unhealthy and can cause your birds to lose condition/get sick. We also recommend avoiding microwave popcorn, which often contains chemicals like spices and preservatives.

Birds should eat a diet that reflects their nutritional needs. While seeds are an okay “base,” many bird seed mixes lack phosphorus, calcium, and amino acids like lysine and methionine.

Bird food manufacturers often add vitamin and mineral supplements to bird mixes to compensate for the shortfalls. 

Avoid salted popcorn when offering as a snack

Benefits of Birds Eating Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain high in fiber and relatively low in calories. It also contains vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and zinc. 

However, popcorn is not a complete source of nutrition and should not be relied upon as a primary food source for birds.

When we think of popcorn, many might imagine the butter and salt-slathered snack at a cinema. This version of the tasty treat is not healthy and a no-go for birds (people too, but that’s a different argument).

Plain popcorn (without salt, flavor, spices, butter, etc.) contains various beneficial nutrients and minerals. Popcorn is also a low-calorie food source (if you don’t add anything), and there is very little sugar.

Although you might assume that “popcorn” is dried sweetcorn, it is another distinct corn type (it comes from a different plant species). The popcorn kernels consist of seed, starch (for the germinating plant to “feed” on), and water.

The typical nutritional value of 3 cups of air-popped popcorn includes the following:

  • Calcium: 2 milligrams
  • Calories: 93
  • Carbohydrates: 18.6 grams
  • Fat: 1.1 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Fiber: 3.6 grams
  • Iron: 0.9 milligrams
  • Potassium: 93.3 milligrams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Sodium: 2 milligrams
  • Sugar: 0.2 grams

Popcorn Is A Good Source Of Carbohydrates And Fiber

Fiber is an essential component of most animals’ diets, including birds. Fiber helps adult birds digest food better and take up more nutrients.

For example, a study in 2019 discovered that layers (adult female poultry) benefited the most from higher fiber as it improved their uptake of other nutrients.

Aside from fiber, popcorn is a source of energy, providing birds with the resources they need to grow/be active.

Popcorn Contains Iron, Calcium, And Other Nutrients

The nutrients found in popcorn include:

  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Additional nutritional benefits from popcorn include:

Popcorn is also a great source of antioxidants, which benefit the body in maintaining homeostasis and balance (boosting the immune system, helping the body process metabolic waste, etc.).

The iron in popcorn is essential for hemoglobin production, allowing blood to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body.

Birds require calcium for healthy bone and feather development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I feed popcorn to birds? 

Yes, you can feed backyard birds popcorn. However, it is important to avoid feeding salted or flavored popcorn to birds. Any added salt or flavor can cause your birds to become ill.

Do birds enjoy eating popcorn? 

Yes, birds may enjoy eating popcorn. However, it is essential to ensure that you feed birds popcorns sparingly as it is not a regular food item and should only make up a small part of their daily diet.

Is popcorn a healthy snack for birds?

Popcorn can be a healthy bird snack without being heavily seasoned or processed. Popcorn is high in fiber and low in calories, making it beneficial for most bird species. However, we recommend offering other food sources such as fruit and seeds.

Can I feed popcorn kernels to birds?

We recommend boiling or cracking the whole kernels before feeding them to backyard birds, making it easier for them to open and eat. Smaller birds may struggle with whole kernels, so processing the kernels is essential. Additionally, it would be best to avoid pre-popped popcorn from the store as it often contains unhealthy bird additives.

Can I feed my birds microwaved popcorn?

No, we advise against feeding your birds microwaved popcorn as it often contains chemicals like spices and preservatives, which can make them sick. It is best to purchase whole kernels and pop them at home so you know exactly what.

Do Birds Eat Corn?

Yes, many ground-feeding wild birds will eat cracked corn. Larger birds, such as Blue Jays and crows, appreciate whole kernels.

So, Can Birds Eat Popcorn?

Popcorn can be a tasty treat for birds if appropriately prepared and not loaded with unhealthy toppings. Popcorn provides essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, B vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and other minerals.

To ensure your feathered friends get the most benefits from their popcorn snack, we recommend air popping with no added oil or flavors. Additionally, popcorn should be fed as an occasional treat rather than a balanced diet substitute.

​By offering plain popcorn, you may attract different species of birds to your backyard and can provide them with a unique snack they may not find elsewhere in nature!

It’s always fun to watch the various birds flock to your yard, and it’s even better when they have a special treat waiting for them!

If you’ve learned something new or have any experience feeding popcorn to birds, we’d love for you to drop us a message! Knowledge is power, and we enjoy sharing information with our readers.

Check our other blog posts for more information about birds and nature. Also, remember to share this article with your friends, family, and fellow bird lovers!

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I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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