Can Birds Eat Bread? Understanding the Potential Dangers!

Feeding birds is the oldest and purest form of love between birds and humans. Whether it is your pet birds or birds that hang out with you in a park, we all love feeding them bread.

Bread has been a staple when it comes to feeding birds for ages. However, it’s not known for sure when feeding bread to birds became popular.

It has remained to be our fondest activity to connect with one of mother nature’s gifts, our beloved Avians.

Yet the question remains: Is bread safe for birds? We’ll answer this question in the following section.

Is Bread Safe for Birds?

The misconceptions spewing around the safety of bread-feeding birds are older than the tradition itself.

Bread-feeding is the equivalent of feasting on McDonald’s for birds. Imagine how “healthy” it would be gorging on fast food every day? Yikes!

Birds should definitely avoid bread as it doesn’t give them any nutritional benefits. Prolonged consumption of bread can be detrimental to their health and lead to the devastating Angel Wing Disease.

Now you must be wondering: Why do birds enjoy bread if it isn’t healthy?

Birds are like humans; they enjoy junk food just as much as we do. Who will turn down free McDonald’s hash browns? Exactly. To birds, bread is just free snacks they get all day long.

It’s easy to look past the excessive amounts of bread birds consume, considering how much everyone loves to feed them.

It makes birds get full enough to sustain a day. It decreases the rate of hunting (also a form of exercise) and ingestion of food that helps them to keep body and soul together.

Nowadays, bread doesn’t contain any form of nutrients that would benefit our avian friends. Besides the high levels of sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fat, there is nothing in bread.

Most animals cannot metabolize salt or sugars. Bread doesn’t have too much-saturated fat. However, even refined carbs and little saturated fat still greatly harm your birds’ health.

Not to mention, bread has zero beneficial amount of protein. Protein is one of the most vital nutrients for growth in animals, birds or not.

Taking all these into account, is it healthy for birds to feast on bread daily?

Is Feeding Moldy Bread to Ducks and Wild Birds Safe?

These questions cross all bird enthusiasts’ minds at least once. If fresh bread is junk food, then rotting bread is poison.

You will not only be infecting ducks with innumerable pathogens but also killing an entire ecosystem. Yes, you heard it right!

Often, we toss moldy or stale bread in ponds of our parks, thinking we are helping ducks or other wild birds out a little. But the reality is the complete opposite.

A goose eating bread crumbs

Feeding them rotting bread allows pathogens to enter birds’ digestive systems. If an entire flock consumes moldy bread, then it is likely that they will all die from diseases caused by these pathogens.

Introducing this pathogen-infested food into an aquatic system also pollutes the water and later creates a vile algae surface. This algae surface becomes the leading cause of death in fishes as it blocks out all light sources.

Fish deaths inflict a locale-wide shortage of food for all birds. Starvation in birds then increases the death rate of wild birds.

Why Shouldn’t You Feed Bread to Birds?

As mentioned above, bread adds nothing beneficial to a bird’s diet. Instead, it does more harm than good.

Not being able to metabolize salt and sugars in bread can make birds severely ill. It can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Excessive refined carbs and saturated fat consumption results in a hike in LDL cholesterol; LDL cholesterol is notorious for blocking blood vessels causing heart attacks and obesity in all animals.

One of the primary problems with the ingestion of bread is that newborns or hatchlings require loads of protein to develop healthy bones and wings, something bread cannot deliver.

The lack of protein and vital nutrients that bread lacks causes irreversible damage and deformities.

If taken into account that birds grow at an exceptional rate, even if their diet of a week consists of nothing but bread, the resulting damage will be permanent.

Birds’ protein intake needs to be between 16% to 19%. Any more or less becomes the leading cause of angel wing deformities. These deformities no longer allow birds to hunt food leading to an unhealthy diet or starvation.

Are All Types of Bread Harmful?

The process of different bread might differ from another, but the primary ingredients remain the same.

Whether it’s bagels or sourdough, their contents are just as harmful as white bread. Hence, the answer to “Can Birds Eat Bread” remains the same.

The Harsh Truth About Giving Birds Bread

It’s best to avoid foods with salts or sugars altogether. However, focusing on feeding foods that benefit their health makes the act of feeding wild birds ever so meaningful.

Especially if you think of how climate changes continue to destroy their habitats and source of hunting, it is crucial to help them by feeding them healthy food.

Unfortunately, it’s the least one can do.

Can You Feed Multigrain Breads to Birds?

Now that you know how unhealthy bread can be for birds, it’s essential to know that you shouldn’t dismiss all types of bread.

Why might you ask?

As previously mentioned, most mass-produced bread we consume daily contains ingredients detrimental to birds’ health if given as a primary food source.

However, there is still a type of bread that will allow you to carry on the quaint love of feeding bread to birds after some alterations.

Homemade multigrain breads in a wooden tray

Multigrain bread is an excellent alternative to feeding birds. As the name already states, the bread is full of various grains.

Grains such as oats, barley, and wheat are highly nutritious for humans and birds.

However, multigrain bread remains to be human food. It contains loads of salt and preservatives (if bought from bakeries), which still makes it unhealthy for a bird.

How can you make it beneficial for birds to eat it?

You can always recreate it at home by opting out of ingredients that aren’t healthy. Adding pellets and peppers is also a great way to make multigrain bread beneficial.

You can always research recipes that suit you!

Are Damages Caused by Feeding Bread Treatable?

There have been tidbit mentions of how many problems can arise from bread-feeding; here’s an extensive list of them:

  • Angel wing disease
  • Obesity
  • Heart failure
  • Starvation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food poisoning
  • Extreme dehydration
A duck suffering from angel wing syndrome
A duck suffering from angel wing syndrome / Photo by Cengland0 / CC BY 3.0

While some may be treatable from the list above, Angel Wing deformity is permanent and a leading cause of death in wild birds.

Taking away their ability to fly takes away the chances of them scavenging food. Instead, starvation proceeds to kill them.

One of the fundamental problems with these issues is that these symptoms go amiss in wild birds and later get ruled out as natural deaths. 

If your pet bird suffered from having bread in its diet, the symptoms would become evident within a week.

Your first plan of action should be rushing your bird to the vet. Chances are they can nurse it back to be healthy again.

But, even after that, you must take care of your bird. These diseases take a toll on your birds’ health.

How Can You Prevent These Diseases?

Feeding bread to wild birds is an oblivious harmful act people do daily. It is crucial to prevent this tradition, even if it means no harm.

A Chickadee feeding on breadcrumbs

Here’s how:

  • Educate your family and friends why bread-feeding is unhealthy for birds
  • Raise awareness about the problems that arise from this tradition
  • Keep bread out of reach for your pet birds
  • Train your birds to stay away from bread products

Small steps like these can bring a drastic change to make these traditions something better.

Educating others about the severity of this tradition also allows you to lessen the burden of obliviously harming birds. It enables us to maintain a healthy relationship with our beloved avians.

What Can You Feed Birds Instead of Bread?

Forsaking bread-feeding doesn’t mean you should stop this beautiful practice of feeding wild birds altogether.

Instead, it gives us a chance to take a look at something our birdie friends will cherish.

Downy woodpecker perched on a bird feeder with sunflower seeds

Here’s what you can feed them instead of bread:

These are just a few of the many things that birds enjoy and are healthy. You can always research for more.

If you intend on getting creative, Bird Chop and Nutri-berries recipes are available that provide all of the vital nutrients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here I’ll answer the common questions about feeding bread to birds.

Can Birds Eat Stale Bread?

No. Birds can’t. Stale bread incubates bacterial and fungal growth, which becomes visible as mold. 

If we humans don’t consume stale bread due to health safety, how can it be safe for birds with their much weaker immunity?

Feeding stale bread allows pathogens to enter the bird’s body leading to deadly diseases like Aspergillosis and Angel Wing Disease.

Can Birds Eat Milk Bread?

Milk Bread can easily be considered the villain of all bread in terms of health repercussions. This is a resounding “No” as well.

Milk bread is chock-full of empty calories and no beneficial nutrients. The empty calories can cause severe starvation, filling up birds for hours while providing no energy value.

It contains one of the most toxic ingredients in the name itself. Birds are severely intolerant to lactose. The amount of milk present in the bread can be fatal to them.

In simple words, white bread is poison to birds. Refrain from feeding it to them.

Can Birds Eat Bread Crumbs?

Bread crumbs are another form of bread that is heavily processed. Meaning it will have much worse health repercussions to take into account.

Besides, the dry dust texture worsens the scenario. Especially in baby birds, bread crumbs can be a deadly choking hazard.

Fresh multigrain bread is the best option available with the least harmful ingredients.

Can Birds Eat Sourdough Bread?

No. It’s easy to say almost all bread is unsafe for birds considering they provide no nutritional value and are detrimental to their health. 

However, the fermented starter of sourdough contains healthy gut bacteria, which can be beneficial and the only advantage to sourdough bread.

Despite that, the disadvantages don’t outweigh the single advantage.

Can Baby Birds Eat Bread?

Overconsumption of bread is the leading cause of death in young flocks.

It is severely damaging to their growth and organ development. It also deprives them of their ability to learn to scavenge natural food.

Obesity becomes no stranger in young birds due to filling up empty calories from bread. Feeding bread to hatchlings can be fatal.

Can Wild Birds Eat Bread?

When we talk about safety, it includes all birds. So yes, bread is harmful to wild birds. It’s the most detrimental to them because the symptoms go unnoticed.

Such actions won’t harm only one bird but the entire flock as they mimic one another.

Feeding them bread at times can also be redeemed harmful in my books. There are plenty of healthy alternatives to choose from instead of bread.

Final Remarks

The general thought of bonding with wild birds is the most innocent act of love. Considering how oblivious people are to the damages caused by feeding them bread: shows how it shouldn’t be our guilt.

What we should bear in mind is preventing this action any further. Raising awareness is just as important a step as educating.

If you take notice of any symptoms of diseases caused by feeding bread to birds, wild, or pets, ensure that you immediately contact your vet or animal rescue hotline.

If it’s a case of Angel Wing disease, then your best hope is to look out for that bird every once in a while.

Photo of author

Written and Fact-checked by David Neff

Author at BirdBonica

David is an expert birder and bird parent with in-depth knowledge of birds. He has years of experience observing birds in their natural habitats, studying their diets, behavior, and more. (Learn more about David here...)

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