If you are a bird enthusiast who wants to feed a pet bird or the wild birds that visit your garden, then you may wonder which of the foods you grow or can source locally can or should be eaten by those birds.
If you grow asparagus in your garden, or during asparagus season where you live, you might enjoy this healthy food. But can birds eat asparagus, and if so, is it safe for them to do so?
The answer is generally no. While it seems some species of birds can eat it safely, others cannot. Feeding asparagus generally poses an unacceptable risk.
Do Birds Eat Asparagus Shoots?
Those who grow asparagus in their gardens will not typically find that wild birds eat tender shoots when they appear. While other creatures in the garden can compete with us for many of our crops, birds are not generally considered to be a risk for any asparagus growers or asparagus farmers.
Most birds simply do not seem to be attracted to asparagus. If they go for fruits or vegetables at all, they are far more likely to aim for other species rather than Asparagus officinalis.
Those who grow asparagus may already be aware that the asparagus plant produces edible shoots that are eaten by humans over a brief period in spring. However, though this is an edible plant for us, it can sometimes cause contact dermatitis.
Do Birds Eat Asparagus Berries?
When the plants grow, the female plants (mostly) produce ‘berries’ that are actually small seed heads. Wild birds do not tend to go for these either.
These berries are known to be toxic to people, dogs, and cats. While it seems difficult to determine whether or not these are toxic to birds too, it is certainly safe to assume that they are. As a result, asparagus berries should never be fed to pet birds.
Can Birds Eat Asparagus Shoots Safely?
If you have some leftover asparagus, or some extra from your garden, you might wonder whether you can safely leave these shoots out for wild birds in your garden, or feed some to pet birds.
The problem is, that there seems to be little research into this issue. While some seem to feed a little asparagus to birds now and then without apparent ill effect, others report harm or even death that may have been due to a pet bird eating this food.
Should You Feed Asparagus to Birds?
Anecdotal evidence online seems to suggest that pet birds like parrots will sometimes eat small pieces of asparagus shoots if these are offered. Some report no ill effects.
However, while there seems to be little consensus on this, others say that Asparagine, which gives asparagus its distinctive taste, can cause severe digestive distress in parrots (and perhaps some other birds too).
So, in the absence of clear information on this, I would suggest that feeding asparagus is not a good idea. It seems some birds can eat it safely, while for others it can pose a serious risk.
Asparagus is not a natural food source for birds; they won’t eat it in the wild. Because of this, it’s unlikely to be a food that birds will readily accept and eat. You may well find that a pet bird won’t accept it even if it is offered. It will likely remain uneaten on most bird-feeding tables.
Some pet birds may also have unknown allergies to asparagus, so feeding it, potentially even in small quantities, could cause harm or even death.
In light of this information, in my opinion, it usually is not worth the risk. Remember, though asparagus has a range of beneficial vitamins and nutrients, there are plenty of other less-risky food sources that can offer the same thing.
How to Prepare and Serve Asparagus to Birds If You Do Decide To Feed It
If you are absolutely certain that asparagus is safe for the list of bird species that you are looking to feed, then remember that this should only be fed in moderation.
Try offering a tiny amount at first, and don’t make it a major part of their diet.
You may feed the asparagus raw but may find that some birds won’t accept it that way. You might also try it steamed or boiled.
Do not feed sauteed or roasted asparagus that has been cooked in oils, as oils can cause the bird stomach problems.
You should also always think about other ingredients that have been used in any recipe before offering it to wild birds since other ingredients might not be ideal for your bird’s health.
Asparagus isn’t the cheapest food to offer to your feathered friends. With the potential risk, it does not make much sense to feed this to birds when so many better alternatives are available.
Alternatives to Feeding Asparagus
While you might feed asparagus to certain birds without any ill effect, the risk that this food poses means that there is no reason to do so.
Birds do not need asparagus and would not usually eat it. There is nothing asparagus can provide nutritionally that cannot be provided by other foods.
Remember, when feeding wild birds or when supplementing the diet of a bird that you keep as a pet, your go-to choices should ideally be foods that these birds would naturally eat in the wild.
As a bird lover who wants to help the birds that live near you, the best thing to do is to plant additional native plants that offer food, shelter, and other resources for your avian visitors.
If you have a pet bird, think about growing foods that they might like to eat so that you can supply them with fresh foods. You can grow a beautiful garden and help your bird at the same time!
Some birds, it seems, can safely eat asparagus, while others definitely cannot. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this topic. All in all, a glut of asparagus or leftovers from your meals are best dealt with in a home-composting system to prevent waste, rather than being fed to birds.