Can Birds Eat Tortillas? Let’s Find Out the Benefits and Risks!

If you’re a Mexican food enthusiast, you’ll often have a plethora of tortillas chilling in your pantry. And it is more often you’ve thought of letting your bird peck on some.

Tortillas come in many forms. They come as tortilla wraps and even tortilla chips. You can also opt for gluten-free tortillas made with corn. Pairing it with a spicy mango salsa hits the spot for lots of us. 

Its versatility makes us question: Can it be shared with birds too?

Birds can relish the delightful flavor of homemade corn tortillas. However, it is only safe to offer this delectable snack in an appropriate environment. If your feathered friend enjoys tortillas, keep them out of its reach until you can safely feed them.

We are already aware of the dangers of feeding slices of bread to birds. That’s why you might be intimidated to try out tortillas for wild bird feeding in parks. 

Assessing all the risks and benefits involved is vital before giving them tortillas. Additionally, most leftovers or processed food can be fatal to birds.

Hence, without further ado, let’s assess the risks and safeties of tortillas!

Are Tortillas Safe for Birds?

If you guessed ‘Yes’’ – then you might be partially correct. If made in home, corn tortillas with no amounts of salt or spices, it is safe for birds. 

However, it doesn’t withhold enough nutritional value to be a primary food source. An occasional treat can be adequate.

Why homemade only? Considering how most grocery-bought food contains tonnes of preservatives and processed ingredients, you can be oblivious to what can be harmful and what not.

Fresh homemade corn tortillas

It’s best to be safe than sorry, especially when ingredients like salts and preservatives can be fatal to birds.

Despite corn being an excellent whole food alternative to seeds, corn tortillas lack the necessary amounts of protein and healthy carbs. In any case, you have to make some at home without any added salt or spice for them to be safe.

Nevertheless, flour tortillas can be just as detrimental as bread to a bird’s health. Capable of filling up a bird’s appetite, it leaves no room for food that is beneficial for their health. In addition, it can lead to many major diseases (you’ll find out briefly).

Now there’s a rumor spewing around the bird community about how any salts are deadly for birds. However, that remains to be a partial hoax. 

All birds require at least some amount of sodium in their diet. They can source that amount from their natural diets. If you introduce more salts into their digestive system, that is where the problem begins.

Their kidneys can only metabolize a certain amount of salts that they already get from natural foods. Any more salt entering their system will force their kidneys to work overtime. It can be more damaging than you think. 

Their kidneys working overtime can lead to kidney failure. Unfortunately, diseases like this go unnoticed in birds as they are little creatures unable to express pain. Thus, it’s best to avoid introducing birds to high salt diets.

Why Are “Only” Corn-Made Tortillas Safe?

Provided corns are an excellent alternative for birds. Unlike junk food such as bread, they are full of protein and fiber. These food groups are essential for hatchlings to grow healthy wings. 

Carbohydrates and healthy fats supply birds with sufficient energy for scavenging food. 

A balanced and nourishing diet is vital for birds; they require energy for nesting, hunting, and migrating. It is what tortillas of any sort fail to provide.

Steps from fresh corn to tortilla

Although corn has some nutritional benefits, they are nearly as healthy as pellets or seeds. Corn loses most of its nutritional value as tortillas. So, all you’re doing is feeding your birds corn tortillas is giving them junk food.

This junk food can quickly turn fatal if the tortillas contain salts. Unfortunately, birds cannot metabolize high levels of sodium; you will be feeding your birds poison in a tortilla form.

However, you can opt to make tortillas, especially for your birds at home. Just leave out salts or spices, and you’ll have a golden treat for your bird to feast on occasionally.

Can You Cook Corn Tortillas for Birds?

Tortillas are human food. Most human foods are just junk food for birds withholding almost no nutritional value. 

Since corn tortillas are now established as non-toxic and safe for birds to eat in small portions, it’s best to know how to prepare them for your birds. 

Now the debate begins: Should I fry it up or leave it uncooked?

If you thought of frying it up to a nice golden-brown color, boy, do I have bad news for you. Greasy food is just as harmful to birds as they are to us humans. 

Although humans can metabolize complex carbs and saturated fats, most birds cannot afford this luxury. 

Birds do not have all the necessary enzymes present in their digestive system to metabolize complex carbs and saturated fats. As a result, it leads to indigestion, making them severely ill. They can also contract many diseases which can be fatal.

However, simple carbs and the tiniest amounts of fat are always welcome to a bird’s diet as it helps them build healthy fat insulation during migration season. 

All of this is something that corn already consists of; hence you don’t have to fry up the homemade corn tortillas you prepared for birds.

How Harmful Can Tortillas Be?

Considering the rate at which birds grow, the effects of poor diet can vary from long-lasting to permanent. These effects range from deformities to deadly diseases.

Here’s an extensive list of them:

  • Obesity
  • Vitamin A Deficiency
  • Iodine Deficiency
  • Liver failure
  • Angel Wing Disease
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Musculoskeletal Disease
  • Mineral Imbalance

These are just an overview of the abundance of diseases malnutrition causes in birds. Most of these diseases go amiss in wild birds. Deaths caused by them get ruled out as natural deaths.

A gray parrot holding a tortilla chip

On the other hand, if your pet bird contracts any of these diseases, their deaths are most likely imminent. Why? As a result of being unexposed to wildlife, they don’t develop a complete immune system. 

It limits their body to defend themselves against all sorts of pathogens, making them more vulnerable to these diseases than wild birds.

Even with small portions consumed, birds can face dangerous effects. Due to their tiny sizes, what is considered a small portion to us can be deadly for them. A peck or two is best to keep it out of harm’s way.

Are the Diseases Caused By a Tortilla-Based Diet Treatable?

Chances are you’ve already been feeding birds tortillas, oblivious to how harmful they can be.

Unfortunately, it’s common for bird enthusiasts or pet owners to think everything can be good for birds. Considering how they are not very picky and enjoy all sorts of human food.

One of the prime problems with birds facing an illness we discussed earlier is that they go amiss in wild birds and in general. So before you detect any symptoms in them, it will probably be too late.

Nevertheless, it is always advisable to contact vets or a pet poison hotline as soon as possible. You never know when you can save an innocent bird’s life.

So it’s best not to rule them out as untreatable before checking in with a vet.

How Will Vets Treat Salt Poisoning Caused by Tortillas?

Now it is very likely as pet parents: you’ll be terrified to find the results of what waits for your bird’s health at the vet’s. But if caught at an early stage, the effects of salt poisoning can be easily treatable.

Your vet’s primary response to salt poisoning should be inducing vomiting in birds. The reason is to ensure the tortilla is no longer present in the bird’s digestive system to prevent further damage.

The vet is going to use monitored activated charcoal treatment to induce vomiting. Unfortunately, it means the bird has to stay over at the vet’s until all toxins draw from its system.

The side effects of activated charcoal treatment include:

  • Severe Dehydration: The vomiting causes the bird to lose water from its system; vomiting leads to dehydration. 
  • Diarrhea: Considering how salt toxicosis (hypernatremia) can occur from consuming tortillas, their body will try the most when it comes to removing it. However, if vomiting doesn’t remove all the toxins, they can have diarrhea too.

Prescribed medicines from your vet can counteract both of these side effects. Nonetheless, aftercare remains crucial. Aftercare ensures nursing the bird to its original health if the damages are not permanent.

How Can You Prevent Salt Toxicosis From Tortillas?

Most bird enthusiasts will continue this practice while remaining oblivious to the dangers it withholds. The best you can do to prevent this practice is to educate the people around you.

No salt written on salt

Start with your family and children. Next, provide all the information you know about feeding tortillas to birds. Lastly, give them a list of alternative and healthy treats for birds.

Continue this practice with any strangers you see feeding tortillas to birds. Take it up a notch and train your pet birds to identify and not receive harmful treats.

What Healthy Alternative Treats Are There Instead of Tortillas?

No one wants innocent avians to suffer. You must have thought of finding healthy alternative treats while reading this. Why waste time when you can get a thorough list right here?

  • Multigrain Bread: Making homemade Multigrain Bread is an excellent alternative for tortillas and bread. Opting out the flour and salts make it perfectly safe for birds. Adding pellets to this bread makes it a healthy one as well!
  • Peppers: This might be a shocker for most people. To birds, sweet and spicy peppers with a great crunch are heavenly.
  • Mealworm Cake: It’s your bird’s birthday? Treat them with a healthy Mealworm Cake!
  • Seedless Grapes: A perfect treat to satisfy your bird’s sweet cravings.
  • Nutriberries: A healthy and well-balanced treat that tastes delicious too; which bird won’t love it?

Healthy snacks are abundant on the internet that will not make you run to the vet. Researching to find more and even building recipes of your own with natural and whole food ingredients is always welcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here I will answer the FAQs about feeding tortillas to birds.

Can Birds Eat Corn Tortillas?

Tortillas, in general, are unhealthy for birds. They contain no benefits whatsoever and are chock-full of empty calories.

However, corn tortillas win over flour tortillas as corn contains carotenoid lutein, which regulates eye health.

Can Birds Eat Flour Tortillas?

Flour tortillas are what give tortillas most of their bad rep in the bird community.

Flour tortillas are bread but worse. The dry desert texture contributes to a big part in choking hazards. Not to mention the tortillas provide nothing but empty calories. 

It’s safe to say tortillas of any kind are for humans only. Birds cannot eat flour tortillas.

Can Birds Eat Tortilla Chips?

If the tortilla is harmful, the added oil in tortilla chips only makes matters worse.

Birds cannot metabolize saturated fat, a key component in tortilla chips. Saturated fats later increase LDL-cholesterol levels causing obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

Hence, tortilla chips can be detrimental to a bird’s health.

Can Birds Eat Tortilla Wraps?

Just like tortillas, tortilla wraps are human food (and should only be eaten by humans).

Tortilla wraps contain a high concentration of sodium chloride, which can induce salt toxicity in birds. Not to mention, tortilla wraps have all the negative aspects of tortillas themselves, if not more.

Can Wild Birds Eat Tortillas?

All birds, especially wild birds, cannot metabolize human foods like tortillas. 

Many symptoms go amiss in wild birds, causing deaths in large flocks. Birds are also most prone to contagious diseases than any other organisms. Thus, wild birds shouldn’t consume tortillas.

Final Remarks

In my opinion, it can be very tedious only for birds to have a snack that’s unhealthy. However, as discussed above, there are numerous healthy recipes on the internet that birds will enjoy and won’t fall ill. 

Hence, why not opt for those instead of going through all that trouble to give them tortillas? 

Other than finding healthy alternatives, you should also prevent the practice of feeding tortillas to birds. It’s the least we can do as we continue to destroy their natural habitats for our human pleasures.

Lastly, if you take notice of any symptoms of salt poisoning in birds, make sure you contact a vet or pet poison helpline in that instance. They will ensure a speedy recovery for the bird in question.

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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4 thoughts on “Can Birds Eat Tortillas? Let’s Find Out the Benefits and Risks!”

  1. Wow! Thank you so much for providing this information. I bought a large package of flour tortillas at the warehouse store to feed wild birds.

    My intuition told me you better find out if you can feed your feather-ball friends that. I am so glad I did.

    I am eternally indebted to you for sharing this most important information 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Enrique,

      Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you found this information at the right time. Happy birding!

      Best,
      David

      Reply
  2. Im sad I cant feed the Raven and a flock of Magpies tortillas anymore! They love them! I hope they didnt get salt poisoning, I never even considered that. But both birds are scavengers and eat just about anything, so I thought a bit of tortilla a day was OK. Today I saw the Raven flying off with half of one so now Im worried about him. TY

    Reply
    • Hi Maggi,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As I’ve mentioned in the post, you can feed them homemade and corn-made tortillas as an occasional treat. And, most of the time, you should offer them seeds and fruits. We need to be more conscious about what we feed them. Happy birding.

      Best,
      David

      Reply

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