Almonds are a popular food source for humans, but you might be wondering whether they are also a suitable food source for the wild birds that share your garden.
Of course, many of us love to provide additional food sources for the birds in our areas through what we grow and through bird feeders or bird tables. But can birds eat almonds? And are they a healthy choice?
Do Birds Eat Almonds?
Birds do indeed eat almonds, whether provided in a bird feeder, fed by hand, or directly from the almond tree.
In some areas where almonds are grown as an agricultural crop, native birds are actually considered to be pests. This is because they have bills that can break through the outer shell to reach the almond that is eaten within.
However, in the US and most temperate regions, most birds won’t be able to break through the outer casing and will only eat almonds when these are de-shelled and placed out by humans.
Almonds are not a US native plant. Almonds are the seeds of the trees within the Prunus genus, most commonly Prunus dulcis. This is a deciduous tree native to Iran and surrounding countries but commonly cultivated in Mediterranean climates and warm temperate regions around the world.
Even where almonds do not readily grow, garden birds will often eat almonds wherever they are offered.
Which Birds Eat Almonds?
Many birds that commonly eat seeds or nuts will eat almonds or almond seed when these are offered in a garden. In the US, some birds that eat almonds include chickadees, jays, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, to name a few examples.
Are Almonds Good for Birds?
Sweet almonds, Prunus dulcis, are good for birds in moderate amounts, though, like any nuts, they should only be fed in moderation due to their relatively high-fat content.
Remember, it is always best to make sure that the birds you are feeding get most of their nutrition from the natural surroundings or the plants in your garden. Any supplemental food should be offered in varied assortments in order to provide a balanced diet.
But almonds can be a good addition because raw almonds are 4% water, 22% carbohydrates, 21% protein, and 50% fat. They are a great source of protein and energy, especially during the winter months, and also provide many essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, etc…
Sweet vs Bitter Almonds
One important thing to understand before planting almonds or feeding them to birds is that not all almonds are the same as the sweet almonds that we eat. While sweet almonds can be eaten by birds, and are enjoyed by them, bitter almonds are a different story.
Prunus dulcis var. amara, a type of almond commonly known as the bitter almond, contains cyanide and can be poisonous to people when raw. Bitter almonds can also pose a health risk to birds that consume them due to their cyanide content!
Though wild birds won’t tend to eat them from a tree, birds may inadvertently consume bitter almonds if they are provided at a bird feeding station. So make sure that it is sweet almonds that are on offer if you plan on feeding them to birds.
Can Birds Eat Almond Shells?
Birds won’t eat the shells or outer casing of almonds. So if you are growing almonds, you will likely have to shell them to make them available to birds. Most almonds on sale are already shelled and come ready for people or birds to eat.
Can Birds Eat Salted Almonds?
Raw almonds are typically safe for birds to consume. But it is important to avoid giving birds any nuts that have been salted, or which have other ingredients added that could pose a risk to avian visitors in your garden.
Can Birds Eat Roasted Almonds?
Cooked/ roasted almonds won’t pose a risk to birds. But when feeding almonds and other nuts to birds it is important to remember that the raw type will provide the best food, with a better nutritional profile.
Can birds eat Almond Butter/ Almond Oil?
Almond butter can also be a good food source for birds – but only if the almond butter is made from almonds alone, without added salt or sugar. Using almond or another nut butter to feed birds can allow smaller birds to access the nutrients almonds contain more easily.
But remember not to leave out such sticky substances in such a way that they can besmirch birds’ feathers, since this can impair their flight.
How To Provide Almonds for Birds
If you would like to feed almonds to the birds then the best way to ensure that you can do so in a safe, sustainable, and eco-friendly way is to grow almonds yourself, in your garden.
Planting Almonds for Birds
Almonds are commercially grown in the US, and this production is concentrated in California. The US produces over half of the world’s total almond production. Almonds can also be grown at home by many gardeners – typically those living in USDA hardiness zones 6-9.
Though they are not native trees, almonds can be a good choice for a sustainable garden. Not only will they allow you to grow food for yourself and your family, but they will also allow you to grow food for backyard birds.
It is always best to try to grow as much as you can to feed yourself and the birds in your garden. Commercial production of almonds is fraught with sustainability issues, so by growing your own rather than buying them, you can reduce your reliance on damaging systems and help fight climate change and biodiversity losses. Of course, you can save a lot of money too.
Almond production leads to major concerns over water use (especially in drought-ridden California), as well as issues relating to pesticide and other chemical use, loss of biodiversity, and soil destruction.
Almonds do well in a sunny and warm location, with a well-drained yet reasonably moisture-retentive, fertile, loamy soil. It will be more likely to thrive in areas with clear distinctions between winter and spring, where the early blossoms won’t be damaged by early spring frosts.
These trees do have quite high water needs and so are not necessarily the best choice for arid areas. But where you are taking matters into your own hands, you can work to create a garden that not only has well-thought-out planting plans to cater to people, birds, and other wildlife, but also effective and sustainable water management strategies in place.
Hand pollination might be necessary to achieve good yields, and you might need more than one tree as most types are only partly self-fertile. But if you can grow almonds where you live, the effort could be well worth it.
Serving Almonds to Birds at a Bird Table or Bird Feeder
If you live close to where almonds are grown, these could be a good choice for feeding garden birds even if you do not grow the trees in your garden. But it would be best to try to seek out organically grown almonds where possible.
If possible, get almonds from small-scale local producers. If almonds were grown in California, they may have been treated with propylene oxide, as almonds labeled ‘raw’ must be either steam pasteurized or treated in this way. This chemical is classified as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ by the EPA. For this, and other reasons, it is worth seeking out organic options.
Make sure that the almonds you feed are safe and not moldy. If you would not eat the almonds, then you should not offer them to the birds. This is especially important since almonds are susceptible to aflatoxin-producing molds.
If almonds have to travel a long way to reach you, then they might not be the best option for feeding the birds. Remember, the more sustainably you live, and the more you think about your impact on our planet, the more you will be able to do to aid birds locally, and on a broader scale.
Fortunately, almonds are certainly not the only option and there are plenty of other nuts and seeds that you might grow, or purchase locally, to feed to the birds in your garden.