Can Birds Eat Butter? Yes, but With a Few Conditions

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Keen birdwatchers often wonder which type of foods are right for the birds who visit their gardens. Some might be looking for the foods that will help their feathered friends the most.

Others may want to feed the birds rather than letting excess food or leftovers go to waste. One question both of these groups might ask is can birds eat butter?

The answer is yes, you can feed the birds butter. But only the unsalted kind, and only in moderation.

We humans certainly often appreciate the taste of real butter. And it turns out that birds do too. Birds do need saturated fats in their diet – especially in the winter months – and butter can provide these.

But just as too much-saturated fat can be bad for us, it can also be bad for birds. Butter should only ever be given to birds occasionally and in moderation. Using unsalted butter is essential for feeding birds.

Below, we’ll look in a little more depth at whether birds can eat butter, and how we might feed it to garden or pet birds.

Can Birds Eat Butter?

Many birds will certainly love to eat butter when it is offered. They appreciate this food source for the high levels of fats that it contains. These fats give birds the energy they need, especially when they are preparing for and experiencing cold winter temperatures.

Pet birds will often also happily eat butter when it is offered.

Is Butter Good for Birds?

Just because the birds like to eat butter does not necessarily mean that it is very good for them or they should eat it all the time. Just as humans can have health problems from eating too much fat, so too can birds.

Butter in moderation can be fine for a bird’s health.

But providing butter too often, or in large quantities, could lead birds to be less healthy and cause a range of issues with health due to high cholesterol. This is true for wild birds visiting a garden and also for pet birds that you might have at home.

However, butter is often salted, and that is where problems can creep in. Large amounts of salt can be dangerous for birds. The high levels of salt in many kinds of butter we can buy can be hazardous for birds and can even kill them if they consume too much.

If you would like to give butter to birds, always choose an entirely unsalted option, and ideally an organic one.

Can You Give Birds Leftover Bread and Butter?

Bread is not dangerous for birds, but it is not a particularly nutritious treat either. It should not make up a major part of their diet.

Remember, bread contains mostly carbohydrates, not the necessary protein and fats birds need to be in optimal health. Even whole grain bread is not particularly nutritionally beneficial for birds if it makes up too much of their diet, though it is far better than a sweet white loaf.

Bread should not be offered too much or too frequently, since birds need to have other things for a healthy balanced diet. But in moderation, it is absolutely fine to leave out small amounts of leftover bread and butter for birds.

Again, make sure that the butter is not salted. As mentioned above, excess salt causes a major problem for birds as they cannot metabolize it and it is toxic to them in large quantities.

Can Birds Eat Baked Goods Containing Butter?

If you have some leftover pastry, muffins, cakes, or other baked goods, these may often contain butter. But they will often also include sugar, salt, or other ingredients that can be bad for birds when they have too much of them.

Birds will love it if you give them some plain, savory pastry, or small crumbled pieces of cake, such as a fruit cake for example. But these are unhealthy treats, and like us, birds should only ever eat them in small quantities.

Do not give birds too much at one time, or feed these sorts of leftover “junk foods” too frequently.

Can Birds Have Leftovers of Food Cooked in Butter?

Foods that have been cooked in butter may sometimes be given to birds in small amounts. Remember to think about the potential salt content, though, and be wary of other ingredients that might pose a risk to your feathered friends.

Avoid leaving out greasy foods that might smear onto birds’ feathers and pose a problem. You should also make sure that you don’t leave out foods that might spoil quickly in hot weather.

Can Birds Have Margarine?

Because margarine contains polyunsaturated fats, this is not good for birds. While a small amount won’t do much harm, it won’t do them much good either. Unlike saturated fats, the polyunsaturated variety won’t give birds the high levels of energy they need in winter.

Can You Use Butter Instead of Lard or Suet in Fat Balls or Winter Feeders?

can birds eat butter

It’s fine to make fat balls with butter in small amounts. Keep in mind that these can melt more easily and won’t solidify as well as lard or suet, especially in warmer temperatures.

It’s best to use lard or suet where possible because the melting butter can cause issues when it smears onto birds’ feathers.

It is always best to use lard or suet to give birds an energy boost in winter since these are the best options for providing them with the energy reserve and nutrients they need.

However, if you cannot get hold of these ingredients, you can use butter instead. Just keep a close eye on it, use it only in cold temperatures, and make sure it does not spoil.

You shouldn’t use any of these during the summer months when nutritional needs are different, fat needs are lower, and fats might melt and spoil more easily.

Butter For Birds- Our Takeaways

As you can see, butter can be fine for birds – but only when unsalted and when given in moderation. Other fats, like suet or lard, can be better choices.

Remember, when you offer food for backyard birds, you need to consider all of their nutritional needs. Whether in your garden or when feeding a pet bird, you should take care to offer a varied and healthy diet.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.