Jun 17, 2020 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, June 2019

Ask Birdsquatch: Is Popcorn Safe for Birds?

A crow enjoys a morsel of popcorn. Photo by D. Debold / Flickr.

Dear Birdsquatch:

My neighbor puts popped popcorn in her bird feeder! I've seen orioles and jays fly off with it, which surprised me. It seems wrong, but what do I know? Is it all right to feed birds popcorn?

—Beth W.,
Parker, Colorado

Dear Beth,

I LOVE popcorn! Call me primitive, but my favorite is Jiffy Pop, which works really well over my campfire. It is a feast for my eyes, ears, taste buds, and hairy nostrils, and "as fun to make as it is to eat," as they used to say. From the time I was a wee squatch, popcorn has been my snack of choice.

But it is a snack, and not a source of nutritious sustenance. That's true for squatches and humans, but it shouldn't be offered—even as a treat—to birds. Popcorn—especially conventional microwave popcorn, most pre-popped popcorn, and even my beloved Jiffy Pop—is seasoned with salt and fat—neither of which is healthy or natural for birds. Even if you pop your own loose kernels with an air popper or on the stove top with a small amount of oil, popcorn is full of fiber and carbohydrates, but short on vitamins and minerals. Such popcorn should be offered sparingly to wild birds—if at all. A diet rich in bread crumbs, popcorn, and other treats low in nutrients is believed to cause wing deformity in waterfowl.

If popcorn is offered to me, I'll eat it and enjoy every salty, buttery, slightly greasy morsel—and so will the birds. We'd be better off eating sunflower seeds or peanuts. Mmmmm, I love sunflower seeds and peanuts, too! Mealworms, though, not so much.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
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