Never Feed This to Wild Birds

Not all people foods are safe for birds. Leave these nine items off the menu to keep your backyard birds happy and healthy.

Though you might feel the urge to feed birds bread and other convenience foods you happen to have handy, try to resist. Dishes humans consume are generally bad for birds in the same way that junk food is bad for our systems. “Malnutrition is certainly a risk if birds aren’t getting the food that they need,” says John Rowden, senior director for bird-friendly communities at Audubon. “They can be undernourished, which makes them more susceptible to disease, so it could cause health or lethal consequences.”

With that in mind, here’s a list of nine nibbles to avoid feeding your feathered friends.

What Not to Feed Wild Birds


Surprised to learn you shouldn’t feed bread to birds? It’s not that bread is inherently unhealthy; instead, bread causes birds to become full quickly, which means they may skip foods with actual nutritional value.

Raw Meat

It might seem like a good idea to set out raw meat as a winter treat, but it can go rancid and spoil—and attract unwanted guests. “As soon as you put raw meat out it starts to transform because it’s outside of a refrigerated environment,” John says.

Seeds and Nuts Sold for People

Sunflower seeds and legumes made for humans often have large amounts of salt. Birdseed is produced specifically for birds, leaving out the extra sodium. Or instead of shopping for birdseed, save time and money by growing native plants that produce fruit, seeds and nectar. Favourites include crabapple trees, sunflowers and salvia.

Bacon Fat

This fat is very salty, has additives and spoils easily. To make suet, get high-quality fat straight from the butcher, before it gets processed.

Potato Chips

While this popular snack is often called upon to cure the late-night munchies, just like when birds eat bread, it doesn’t provide proper nutrition.


You’d think birds could use the calories and sugar, but honey can grow mold in addition to becoming troublesome and sticky.

Red Food Colouring

There’s no need to add any food colouring to your hummingbird sugar water. The dye can be harmful and won’t attract more birds.

Old Birdseed

Serve fresh seed to ensure your backyard friends aren’t exposed to moldy or rancid food.

Pet Food

Dog and cat food lacks nutrition for birds and may attract mice, rats or other backyard pests.

In the end, it all comes down to mindset. “In their heart of hearts, people are trying to do the right thing, and what they want to do is help birds,” John says. “Great; we want to encourage that, it’s just finding the right foods.”

Next, find out how to attract birds to your back yard.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman