If you have an apple tree in your garden, you may already know that wild birds love these delicious, shining fruits.
There are several apple trees where I live, and I can certainly attest to the fact that many different birds like to eat them. In fact, birds will peck at and consume the fruits before we get the chance to harvest those on the upper branches.
As an organic gardener, I welcome these birds despite their habits. Having them in my space allows me to understand the important roles they play in the ecosystem.
In a way, sharing out apples with the birds is one small price we pay for their ecosystem services in fertilization, pest control, etc…
Should you plant an apple tree?
Planting an apple tree in your yard can benefit not only you and your family but also the birds and other wild creatures that scatter about.
But even if you cannot place an apple tree, you might still consider feeding apples from your area to the birds in your garden.
Are apples safe for birds to eat?
Many birds include apples as part of their daily diet; and just like the old saying goes: “an apple a day is said to keep the doctor away.”
But even if that handy little motto hadn’t been proven by science, apples do contain several nutrients that can contribute positively to health.
By planting apple trees or placing apples out for birds to eat, we are providing them with food that’s cram-packed with plenty of good stuff that they need.
To attract birds to their gardens, many people place seeds on a feeder, but including some pieces of fruit can increase the number of species you can attract. Planting trees is even better because it provides an excellent source for birds through the plants in your garden.
Some birds that like eating seeds will eat apples too. But there is also a range of bird species that don’t eat seeds that will enjoy the fruit on trees or your feeders.
Some birds will sip on the juice of an apple. Others will eat the soft flesh once the skin is removed, while others can break through the skin and consume a lot more of these fruits.
Robins, bluebirds and other thrushes, jays, crows, orioles, tanagers, thrashers, mockingbirds, and woodpeckers are a few birds that like to feed on the fruits. But there are plenty more birds that will enjoy eating fruit that you leave out.
Are apples toxic to birds?
The juicy flesh of apples is not toxic to any birds. The seeds, however, contain cyanide and can be toxic to birds and many other creatures — including humans!
Don’t worry, though — it takes about 150-1000 finely chewed apple seeds to provide a fatal dose to humans. And while you can assume that range is much lower for birds, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and keep the seeds away!
It is also worth mentioning that apples while fresh pose no threat at all to the birds and other wildlife in your garden. But the fruit that has begun to spoil after being left lying about for too long can potentially become problematic.
Incidentally, if you keep love birds or other captive birds as pets, these can eat apples and will enjoy doing so. Peeled and offered in slices (with seeds removed), they can provide pets as well as garden birds with vitamins and nutrients.
But make sure that fruit snacks like apples make up no more than around 10-20% of the bird’s diet, or it may gain weight. Make sure your pet bird, like you, has a balanced diet.
You should make sure that you feed garden birds sugary fruits like apples in moderation too. Like us, many birds have sweet teeth. And while the fruit sugars are beneficial in smaller quantities, they should not be offered too much.
Fruits like apples offered on a feeder should only ever be viewed as a supplement to natural food sources, not as a primary food source.
Focus on increasing biodiversity in plant life in your garden, since this is the number one way to provide birds with everything they need to eat.
What kind of apples do birds eat? What different types of apples?
Theoretically, hungry birds will nibble on whatever kind of apple growing in or placed out in your garden. However, they tend to prefer those apples with higher fruit sugar content. They’re ones we refer to as ‘eating’ or ‘dessert’ apples.
I grow several different apples in my orchard/ forest garden and I’ve noticed that the birds in my area tend to go more for the sweetest ones that we eat raw, rather than for those which we use to make cider, or for cooking.
Depending on which bird species are present in your area, you might also find that they feed on tarter apples too.
Birds certainly can and do eat tarter apples like Granny Smith, as well as well-known sweeter varietals. They will even eat cooking apples and try tart crab apples regularly.
In my experience, however, birds will definitely prefer the sweetest and ripest apples over those lower in sugar content.
What about different parts of apples?
If you have an apple tree in your garden, then you will soon observe which birds eat apples where you live, and which parts of the fruits those birds like to eat.
Can birds eat apple skin?
In our garden, larger birds like crows tend to peck larger bites into the ripe apples at the top of the trees. The holes they have made are then used opportunistically by a range of smaller birds, who peck off small portions of the flesh or sip the juice.
Not all birds can peck through the skins of apples. So if rather than growing apples on a tree, you are providing these at a feeder, you may like to peel some sections, so that these smaller birds that cannot break through the skins can also feed.
Can birds eat apple seeds?
As mentioned above, while the flesh of apples is not known to pose a risk to any birds, the seeds are harmful. So if you are cutting up an apple for a feeder, don’t forget to remove the seeds.
If an apple breaks open and seeds are exposed (on the ground below an apple tree) birds will tend to avoid these seeds. However, it is better to remove these when feeding apples to birds, as it is better to be safe than sorry.
Some birds may inadvertently consume them by mistake.
Can birds eat apple cores?
Many birds will nibble around the edges of an apple core with no ill effect. But remember, the seeds are poisonous, so remove the seeds before you toss apple cores out for the birds to be on the safe side.
What about apples prepared in different ways?
If you have an apple tree or apple trees in your garden, you will know that there are plenty of things that you can do with your harvest. Apples can be eaten fresh or processed, cooked, and/or preserved in a wide range of different ways.
Do birds eat raw apples?
Several species of birds love to eat raw apples, which are the best kind for them.
Ideally, you should leave a few apples on the tree so birds can take their share. But if you cannot grow apples yourself, fresh organic apples from a farm shop, CSA scheme or farmer’s market are the next best option for you, your family, and the birds in your garden.
Can birds have dried apples?
One way to preserve apples is to dry them. Dried apple slices will last a lot longer than the fresh fruits and will help you make the most of a harvest. These can feed you, and some wildlife, over the months when fresh apples are not in season.
In moderation, dried apple slices can also be fed to birds whose bills can break off portions of the tougher dried flesh. Just remember that dried fruit won’t be beneficial for those birds that only eat the tender flesh or sup the juices of the fresh fruit.
Personally, I have not left dried apples out for the birds in my garden. But I do know that my friend’s African Grey Parrot enjoys some apple slices and other dried fruit as a delicious treat now and then.
How about freeze-dried apples?
Freeze-dried apples typically have an even lower moisture content than air-dried, oven-dried, or dehydrator-dried apples. They may be too dry for birds to easily eat. However, some birds may also enjoy rehydrated freeze-dried apples as an occasional treat when fresh apples are not in season.
Can birds have applesauce?
Smaller and more delicate birds might not feed much on apple slices. Those that like to nibble and sip will appreciate it if you leave them out a small portion of apple sauce as a treat.
Don’t overdo it, however; any substance like this should only be placed out in shallow containers, on an occasional basis.
Remember, too, that it is best to use applesauce made from organic apples alone – not one that has been sweetened or which has other added ingredients which may pose a risk to birds.
How do you feed apples to birds?
By far the best way to feed apples to birds in your garden is to grow them on an apple tree and let birds naturally present in the environment take their share.
You should choose an apple tree that is native to your area, (an American crab apple) or a cultivar ideally suited to the conditions where you live since this will provide the most for native wildlife.
Apple trees on dwarfing rootstocks can be grown in even the smallest of spaces. And trees can be shaped to fit into even very small gardens – grown as step-over or cordon plants, for example, or espaliered against a wall or fence.
If growing an apple tree is not possible, consider other fruit trees or fruiting shrubs that work well in your area. Many fruits and berries are wonderful for the birds with whom you share your space.
However, if necessary, you can also add a few slices of apple to a feeder in your garden, or hang an apple from a tree or other support.
Just make sure you plan your garden to provide other food sources for as many different birds as possible!