Can Birds Eat Popcorn? A Crunchy Delight or Health Hazard?

can birds eat popcorn

Whether for the movies or a gourmet meal, popcorn has taken over the snack industry and is now on its way to reign in fine dining.

The other day I opened a piping hot bag of popcorn, and the buttery goodness enveloped my entire house. To my utter surprise, my bird went ballistics to have a bite.

That’s when it dawned on me – Can we share popcorn with birds?

No. And We’ll discuss why it’s not safe for birds.

Is Popcorn Safe for Bird Consumption?

Popcorn is essentially flavored corn kernels; even so, it is still human food.

By now, we are all aware of the dangers human food can threaten birds with. Especially junk foods like popcorn that aren’t necessarily good for humans either.

A beautiful parrot eating popcorn
A beautiful parrot eating popcorn / Photo by Chiara Coetzee

Why, might you ask?

If you look at the nutrition facts written behind any popcorn package, you will understand why.

Popcorn contains added salt and a lot of saturated and trans-fat from the butter.

Table salt or sodium chloride imbalances the perfectly balanced salt birds consume from their natural diet.

Due to that imbalance in its system, birds can no longer metabolize the added salt and are sent into salt toxicosis. Symptoms of salt toxicity include organ failure, stroke, and loss of mobility in limbs.

As for butter, it is advisable for even humans to not consume high amounts of saturated fat. Saturated or trans fat is notorious for increasing LDL cholesterol.

An increase in LDL cholesterol results in the blockage of arteries and fat depositing around other organs, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Two birds, a seagull and a pigeon eating popcorn
Two birds eating popcorn / Photo by Jaume Ventura

Besides buttery popcorn, there is also sweet popcorn available. Are those safe for birds? Let’s take a look!

While a lot less saturated fat is involved in sugary popcorn, the sugar itself counteracts that positive side.

The many harmful symptoms of sugar overload in birds are fatigue, anxiety, and other severe illnesses.

Overall, the verdict on packaged store-bought popcorn is not safe for birds due to everything that makes them tasty.

What Are the Safe Ways to Feed Your Bird Popcorn?

As seen in the section above, it’s safe to say giving packaged popcorn to your birds, even as a treat is not ideal.

Does that mean you must shun popcorn from your bird’s diet altogether?

Not at all! Popcorns are popped corn kernels, and if you’ve read our take on can birds eat tortilla, you would know that corn is perfectly safe for birds to consume.

Human hand tossing popcorn on a pan to make homemade popcorn

Why is it different for popcorn? The underlying problem with popcorn is not the popcorn but the added flavorings and seasonings.

If you can provide popcorn with no such things, then go for it. For that, you can purchase dry corn kernels in bulk at your local grocery stores.

Popcorn kernels can also be a yummy munch for your bird. Especially; ones with stronger beaks, like pigeons and woodpeckers.

A parrot eating unpopped popcorn or corn kernels

Letting your bird peck on fresh corn on a cob will also be a delicious treat or an addition to a meal for its sweetness.

Remember to not feed birds stale popcorn, as its rubbery texture can be a prominent choking risk.

What Are the Benefits of Popcorn for Birds?

Now that we’ve discerned the safest way for birds to consume popcorn. Here’s a list of benefits to ensure that popcorn has a designated place on your treat list for your birds.

1. Prevalent in High Fiber

A high fiber intake is essential in a bird’s diet, considering it makes up half of the requirements besides protein.

Popcorn and corn cob

Fiber provides roughage to keep a healthy bowel movement, which is crucial since birds don’t have as many enzymes in their gut as humans.

Besides preventing gastrointestinal diseases, fiber also decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases by reducing cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream.

Popcorn delivers 1.5g of fiber to each cup of serving.

2. Enriched With B Vitamins

B vitamins are the building block of maintaining organ and bodily functions. They help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues.

8 B vitamins make up the vitamin B complex.

Guess what? Popcorn contains all 8 of these vitamins. Although in small amounts, it is rare for snacks to have such nutritional benefits. 

Of all the B vitamins, popcorn boosts the RDI value of Vitamin B9 the most. It provides 0.7g of folate (vitamin B9) in each serving. Vitamin B9 prevents strokes and cognitive decline.

A pigeon eating popcorn

Besides the B vitamins, popcorn is an impeccable source of Vitamin A, which aids in forming and maintaining skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. Popcorn contains 2.3g of Vitamin A in each cup of serving.

3. Weight Management

Weight management is another key benefit of a high-fiber diet, especially when accompanied by the low-calorie fact. It can keep your bird full while delivering healthy nutrients.

Along with a high fiber intake, popcorn is also a whole grain with an exceptionally low glycaemic index. Whole grains comprise a healthy and nutritious part of a bird’s diet.

Food with low GI can improve your bird’s glucose and lipid levels, which are usually difficult for birds to digest.

Who knew popcorn would attribute to such a long nutrition list despite being branded as a ‘junk food’? Popcorn truly defines the saying – don’t judge a book by its cover!

Frequently Asked Questions

With so many varieties of popcorn available, it’s usual for there to be queries regarding them. In this section, I will tackle every question that can cross your mind to ensure no doubts are left.

Can Wild Birds Eat Popcorn?

Since popcorn is a human food, it will be highly unusual if wild birds are familiar with them. If you would like to provide a treat or two in your birdfeeder occasionally, popcorn can be a delicious option.

Wild birds may be hesitant at first. Hence, try this for a day or two. If they go untouched, maybe the wild birds in your area are not fond of them.

Nonetheless, popcorns are perfectly safe for wild birds to consume.

Can Birds Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Unpopped popcorn or popcorn kernels are the same. What may be different is where they come from. Some people may refer to unpopped popcorn as the kernels out of the popcorn packaging or even the leftover in the packet that didn’t pop.

The problem is that packaged popcorn or store-bought ones contain heavily added salt to please the human palate, which can instantly send your bird to salt toxicosis.

On the other hand, corn kernels are organic and dried in the form of kernels, which are perfectly safe for birds to consume.

Can Birds Eat Popcorn With Butter?

Butter is saturated fat that can easily block arteries and store fat around organs since birds don’t have all the necessary enzymes to break down the lipid.

Butter popcorns are high in saturated and trans fat, which are detrimental to a bird’s health hence consuming popcorn with butter is unsafe for birds.

Can Birds Eat Microwave-able or Salted Popcorns?

These types of popcorn are just another term for packaged or store-bought popcorn, which we are already aware that it causes toxicity in birds by creating an imbalance in the well-balanced salt intake they acquire from their natural diet.

For more info on salt toxicosis, don’t forget to check out our article!

Can Birds Eat Cheese Popcorn?

Birds are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzyme that breaks down lactose, leading to indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. Extreme cases can lead to deaths as well.

Hence, birds cannot consume cheese popcorn as it is toxic.

Can Birds Eat Sweet Popcorn?

Sweet popcorn contains high amounts of table sugar that are harmful to birds due to its nervous system disruption. Symptoms of high sugar consumption may include fatigue, jitteriness, anxiety, and sugar fixation.

Sugar can also increase glucose levels, later contributing to obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

Final Remarks 

In conclusion, store-bought flavored popcorn is a big no-no. Still, organic corn kernels are highly nutritious and beneficial whether they are popped.

It is placed in the top five snacks I love to treat my bird! Nonetheless, contacting your vet before adding new food to your bird’s diet is always advisable.

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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