Cilantro (also called Chinese parsley) is a leafy herb that comes from the plant Coriandrum sativum. I must confess that I am among those who find the taste of cilantro extraordinarily pungent and not all that pleasant. But of course, many find its flavor citrussy, fresh and appealing.
It turns out that people are divided in their opinions of this herb because of their genes. The perception of this plant’s specific taste has been linked to one particular gene. It really does taste very different to different people.
So, whether you love or loathe cilantro (or coriander as we call it in some parts of the world), you might be wondering whether birds can eat it safely and whether it is something they like to eat.
Do Birds Eat Cilantro?
Gardeners already know that when growing cilantro, many creatures compete with them for the crop. Birds are just one more creature to add to the list, alongside small mammals like rodents, rabbits, slugs and snails, and a range of insects.
Birds occasionally eat cilantro growing in a garden and can be added to a list of creatures that might be considered ‘pests’ when growing this culinary herb.
Birds rarely eat the leaves as their primary food source, but many omnivorous types may be spotted feeding on cilantro in a herb or vegetable garden.
Which Birds Eat Cilantro?
Birds like pigeons, doves, and starlings have been known to nibble on cilantro plants in a garden. Though, on the whole, if your cilantro is being eaten, it is more likely by a different creature like a rat, mouse, rabbit, slug, snail, or caterpillar.
Leftovers containing cilantro might be taken readily by a range of species when left out at a garden bird feeder. Though, of course, which birds will likely feed on those leftovers will depend on what else they contain.
Cilantro can also be fed to backyard chickens or ducks. In particular, chickens enjoy eating raw cilantro in a garden and need to be fenced out of an area where it is growing if you do not want them to eat the entire cilantro plant down to the ground.
Pet birds like parrots, parakeets, budgerigars, etc., will also accept and enjoy cilantro from time to time when it is provided. But cilantro can be polarizing for pet birds just as it is for people, and some simply won’t accept it at all and don’t like the taste.
Which Parts of Cilantro Plants Do Birds Eat?
Birds will often eat fresh cilantro leaves. Some birds may also eat coriander seedlings in their entirety or pull them from the ground as they nibble on them.
Birds may also eat the seeds where these have been direct sown, and gardeners may be tricked into thinking the seeds have not germinated when, in fact, they have all been eaten instead.
Some birds may also eat coriander seeds – which come from the same plant as cilantro leaves, after they have flowered.
Is Cilantro Good for Birds?
Cilantro leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, which are beneficial for human and bird health. These leaves can safely be given as a dietary supplement to garden birds, chickens, ducks, or birds kept as pets.
However, it is important to note that birds occasionally have allergies to this plant, just as people can. So while safe for almost all birds, cilantro should be introduced slowly to pet birds. And cilantro leaves should only ever be provided in moderation and in small amounts.
Can Birds Eat Coriander Seeds?
Coriander seeds provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. They are also perfectly safe for birds to eat and can be a healthy addition to the diet of wild backyard birds, poultry or pet birds.
Soaking the seeds overnight can make them easier to digest and consume for a range of pet or wild birds.
How To Grow Coriander for Birds
If you want to make sure that birds you care for, whether they are pets, livestock, or wild birds sharing your space, get as varied and healthy a diet as possible, then you should always think about using the space available in your garden to grow for them as well as for yourself.
Cilantro is a relatively easy herb to grow and gives you two harvests for the price of one since you can harvest the leaves for a while before letting the plants flower and set seed and collecting the coriander seeds, too.
Coriander can be grown in the ground, raised beds, or containers – even on a sunny windowsill if outside space is unavailable. Plant cilantro in well-drained soil or growing medium with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8 in full sun or light shade in hotter areas. When happy in a particular location, this plant should self-seed quite readily and pop up afresh each year.
Interestingly, even when birds in your garden don’t seem all that bothered about eating coriander, planting it in a herb garden or as a companion plant in your vegetable plot could still help the birds and provide them with a different type of food.
Coriander plants can attract a range of beneficial insects to your gardens, serve as a trap crop for certain pest species, and draw in the hoverflies and other insects that eat them. This keeps critical crops growing close by safe. When the coriander attracts the insects, the birds that eat them will follow.
Feeding Cilantro to Birds
Cilantro leaves can be added to a pet bird’s diet alongside other fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc. Supplementing a pet bird’s primary food with different ingredients can help you ensure that they have as rich and diverse a diet as possible and remain in tip-top health.
You might also leave food items containing extra cilantro out for the birds in your garden, as long as they are not salty and do not contain other ingredients like garlic, onions, etc., that can pose a health risk to birds.
Just remember not to give too much of any supplemental food at any one time, and always make sure to remove uneaten food before it spoils or molds since this could also be dangerous for the birds you are trying to aid.
Also, try to choose organic cilantro if you buy it rather than growing your own. Non-organic crops profoundly damage the environment and wildlife, and pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins on the crop may harm the birds.
Growing or buying organic is the only choice if you want to do the right thing for your health, the health of the birds you are feeding, and the health of our planet in a broader sense. So think about where foods come from and how they are grown when choosing foods for yourself and birds.