For the avid bird watcher, grabbing a bag of sunflower seeds to feed your wild birds, or treating a pet cockatiel, is almost second nature. But what if you grab the wrong bag and accidentally provide your bird’s salted sunflower seeds? Can birds eat salted sunflower seeds, or are sunflower seeds toxic to feed birds?
Can Birds eat sunflower seeds with Salt?
No, birds should not eat sunflower seeds with salt! Salt can be toxic to birds, and too much can cause health problems for your feathered friends. You should avoid giving your birds any food with salt and instead offer raw sunflower seeds such as black-oil sunflower seeds or striped sunflower seeds as a snack.
Many experts agree that you should never feed salted seeds to any birds under any circumstances. Aside from salt, these seeds often contain other harmful chemicals.
Salt and other chemicals in human food are not part of a bird’s natural diet, and exposure to these substances could interfere with its body and sensitive digestive system.
Birds, like most animals, benefit from a healthy, well-balanced diet, which provides them with the macro and micronutrients essential to their well-being.
From our research on the topic, we have found some helpful information about why salted sunflower seeds are bad for birds and ways of feeding them sunflower seeds that avoid health complications and provide them with a nutritious snack.
Why Are Salted Sunflower Seeds Bad For Birds?
While sunflower seeds are common in most bird food mixes, salted sunflower seeds are not. Salt in large quantities is not suitable for any animal, including humans.
While salts are essential in small doses for healthy body functioning, most organisms don’t need excess sodium chloride or table salt. Birds, in particular, can’t effectively process extra salt.
Most essential salts occur naturally in the food birds eat, of which sodium chloride is a small portion.
So while feeding salted sunflower seeds might not have an immediate negative impact, over time, the salt accumulates, leading to health complications.
Roasted sunflower seeds are also a no-go for birds. During the roasting process, these seeds gain up to 170 mg of sodium, making them too salty for birds.
What Happens When I Feed Salted Sunflower Seeds To Birds?
Although feeding birds salt in small amounts might seem fine, over time, the salt accumulates, leading to adverse health conditions.
Some of the consequences of feeding salted sunflower seeds to birds include the following:
- Dehydration– the most acute of symptoms is that your bird “loses” water and develops an increased thirst (polydipsia).
- Kidney failure– kidneys stop filtering the blood and no longer remove impurities like urea.
- Increased excretion rate and volume, called polyuria.
- High blood pressure and heart failure– extra salt in the system lead to high blood pressure (excess water absorbed at the kidneys), which results in increased strain on the heart, leading to its failure.
- Aside from blood volume, too much salt results in other fluids accumulating in the body (particularly the abdomen, called ascites). Liver (and other organs) failure/damage from excess salt leads to this excess fluid.
- Neurological issues
- Growth abnormalities in young birds. Too much salt may also stunt a young bird’s growth.
Other Chemicals From Salted Sunflower Seeds
Aside from salt, manufacturers usually add other harmful chemicals to “salted sunflower seeds.”
These harmful chemicals include:
For example, a packet of Trader Joe’s Roasted & Salted Sunflower Seeds 16 oz, from Amazon, contains:
- Black pepper
- Citric acid
- Garlic powder
- Natural flavor
- Onion powder
- Yeast extract
What Is The Role Of Salt In The Body?
Salts in the body are not limited to sodium chloride (table salt). There are many salts that a bird’s body requires.
Salt plays a fundamental role in the following:
- Regulating kidney functioning by helping remove water from the blood. Salt acts like a sponge in the kidneys, pulling water from its “route” of taking waste to the bladder. The water is absorbed back into the body.
- Salt contributes to muscle development and growth by influencing blood volume, contractions, and nerve signals.
- Salt is essential for neurological functioning. Nerves need salts for passing signals and relaying messages.
- Salt helps the body with “homeostasis” (the body’s ability to remain balanced, with everything functioning as it should, healthy, robust immune system, eating and sleeping correctly, etc.)
Aside from sodium, potassium is the other essential salt influencing many body functions.
Can I Feed Any Birds Salted Sunflower Seeds?
Although some marine and estuarine birds have specialized glands for removing excess salt from their bodies, it’s better not to provide them with additional salt.
Scavenger birds like crows might eat leftover salty food, but this does not mean it’s okay to give them salted sunflower seeds or other salted foods.
In this case, playing it safe and keeping the salted sunflower seeds to yourself is the best action.
Are Unsalted Sunflower Seeds Good For Birds, And How Many?
Raw/unprocessed sunflower seeds are fantastic treats for most birds.
When purchasing from a store, the seed is marked as “for birds.” They come in black-oil sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seeds, or unshelled sunflower seeds (also called sunflower hearts).
- Fats (Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
- Vitamins (E, B Complex, and Niacin)
How Many Sunflower Seeds Should A Bird Eat?
Too many sunflower seeds can also result in health issues. Seeds contain lots of fatty acids, which in small amounts, are beneficial.
When birds overeat fatty acids, it may result in fatty liver diseases, leading to scarring (cirrhosis) or extra tissue buildups (fibrosis).
The type of bird determines how many sunflower seeds they should eat. For wild birds, alternate the days you put out sunflower seeds to prevent resident birds from overeating.
For pets, birds only receive sunflower seeds around 5 to 10% of their diet to prevent them from over-eating sunflower seeds.
What Happens If A Bird Eats Too Many Sunflower Seeds?
Common signs that your bird is consuming too much fatty acid and is at risk include:
- Listlessness (no energy/lethargic)
In advanced liver disease cases, birds have:
- Green or yellow urate (usually white crystals) with wet droppings instead of well-formed droppings.
- Difficulty breathing
- A bloated abdomen
- Increased water intake (they are always thirsty)
Unfortunately, these symptoms are common for several diseases, so the only way to know if a bird has a liver disease is for a veterinarian to diagnose it properly. Once diagnosed, the vet will discuss a treatment plan depending on the severity.
In mild cases/early stages, a diet change might be sufficient.
How to Feed Sunflower Seeds to Backyard Birds
There are numerous ways to feed sunflower seeds to backyard birds. You can use bird feeders, ground feeders, or a bird table to provide sunflower seeds.
There are many seed-eating birds in your backyard that love eating sunflower seeds. You will likely see larger birds like Blue Jays at your bird feeder to smaller birds like chickadees.
You can’t go wrong if you offer birds black oil sunflower seeds!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can Birds Eat Shelled Salted Sunflower Seeds?
No, it is not recommended that birds eat shelled and salted sunflower seeds. Whether shelled or unshelled, the salt content can be harmful to their health, so it is best to avoid giving them any salted sunflower seeds.
Can birds eat roasted salted sunflower seeds?
No, roasted salted sunflower seeds are not recommended for birds either. The salt content can harm their health, and the roasting process changes the nutritional composition of the seeds. It is best to avoid giving them any roasted sunflower seeds.
What Kind Of Peanuts Are Safe For Birds?
It is safe for birds to consume raw, shelled peanuts. However, avoid giving them salted or roasted peanuts as the salt content can harm their health. You should also ensure that there are no moldy or stale peanuts before feeding them to your feathered friends. It is best to give them fresh, raw peanuts in moderation.
So, Can Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds with Salt?
While sunflower seeds provide many benefits for wild and pet bird species, it is not a good idea to feed them sunflower seeds with salt.
Birds don’t process salt as efficiently, and too much salt causes dehydration, followed by organ failure.
While birds enjoy raw sunflower seeds as a tasty snack, you’ll need to feed these seeds as part of a balanced diet. Too many can cause harm and lead to health issues.
Let us know if you have any experience feeding sunflower seeds to pet birds or wild birds! We would love to hear from you about your experiences that we can share with our readers. Learning is a shared experience, after all.
Remember to 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.