Coconuts are a favorite treat for many people, but you might be wondering whether coconut is something that birds like to eat too.
Do birds eat coconut, and, if so, is it good for them? What form of coconut might birds eat? Should we feed coconut to feathered friends in our gardens, and if so, how?
Do Birds Eat Coconut?
Coconuts are, of course, from a tropical palm tree, Cocos nucifera, which is ubiquitous in coastal tropical regions.
In the regions where these trees are found, birds may often feed on the ripening fruit and the coconut water within. They may also tuck into the fresh inner flesh of the mature seed when one is broken open.
In temperate climates where coconuts cannot typically be grown outdoors, coconuts also have a long-standing association with sustaining wild birds.
While they are not a natural part of the diet of birds in temperate climate areas, native birds will occasionally choose to feed on the fresh flesh of coconut when one is left out deliberately in a garden.
Which Birds Eat Coconut?
Since it is not a natural part of the diet of wild birds in most of North America, many birds won’t necessarily eat it if it is offered. American robins and chickadees are two birds that have been known to give it a try.
Pet birds like parrots and other exotic species will, of course, often love fresh coconut flesh and will happily consume it when it is offered.
Is Coconut Good for Birds?
Coconut flesh can be a healthy addition to a bird’s diet. It is high in saturated fats, so can be useful in providing an energy boost and helping birds build fat reserves in winter.
It is important to note that it should only ever be considered supplemental food and not given in excess.
Remember that just like us, birds need a mixed, balanced diet to remain in optimal health. Supplemental foods can be useful on occasion, but it is always best to first consider how you can provide a native, natural diet for birds.
If you wish to feed coconut to birds, just remember that when it is said that coconut can be an excellent source of nutrients for a bird’s diet, this refers only to the white, fresh flesh that coats the inside of the coconut shell.
You must make sure that you understand which parts of the coconut you should feed to your feathered friends, and which parts may be harmful to them. It is also critical to understand how to best provide coconut to birds.
Can Birds Eat Coconut Shell?
The tough outer shell of the coconut, covered with fibrous hair, is not eaten by birds. However, the shell of the coconut is perhaps the most useful part when thinking about feeding the birds in your garden.
First of all, the best way to feed fresh coconut flesh is within a half shell or a section of the shell. Keeping the flesh stuck to the shell can reduce the chance of the flesh going bad and developing mold before it can be eaten.
However, even if you are not feeding the coconut meat itself to the birds, the shell can be retained (perhaps after you have eaten the flesh). This shell can be used as a container for a mixture of fat and bird seeds, and have holes drilled into it to hang it in a suitable spot in your garden.
Half coconuts are often sold to those wishing to feed backyard birds, filled with a bird-friendly, ready-prepared mix. But you can also carefully halve a coconut yourself and make your own feeder mix, taking a DIY approach.
Can Birds Eat Coir?
Coir is the name given to the natural fiber derived from the outer husk of the coconut. This fibrous material has a wide range of uses.
Birds do not eat these fibers. However, you may sometimes see birds plucking at coir and taking it away – likely because they are using it in building their nests.
Can Birds Drink Coconut Milk/ Coconut Cream/ Yogurt?
If you are hanging a half shell with the flesh inside for birds to eat, it is important to rinse out any milk that remains within. Any milk left out can encourage molds or mildews to form, which can be harmful to birds.
That being said, giving coconut milk, cream, or yogurt to backyard birds is generally not recommended.
Can Birds Eat Coconut Flakes/ Desiccated Coconut?
It is important to note that, unlike fresh coconut flesh, desiccated or flaked coconut should not be fed to the birds in your garden. This is dried out and may harm the birds when consumed.
You can rehydrate coconut flakes by adding water, then offer this to the birds in your garden in small quantities.
While this can be safe if frequently monitored, this method is not recommended, due to the coconut’s tendency to spoil quickly.
Can Birds Eat Coconut Flour?
A small number of leftovers with coconut flour in them won’t necessarily do any harm, though you do need to think very carefully about any other ingredients that may have been added.
While coconut flour is high in fiber, it may not be a great protein or fat source, so wild birds won’t gain many benefits and may fill up on this at the expense of the protein-rich foods they need. This is why it is critical to only offer these types of treats in moderation.
Can You Use Coconut Oil To Make Fat Balls for Birds?
Coconut oil should not be offered on its own, or in such a way that the oil can get onto birds’ feathers.
However, it is possible to consider, with certain caveats, using coconut oil in place of suet or other animal-derived products in making homemade vegan-friendly fat balls for birds.
A half shell of a coconut can be the ideal feeder container for a homemade seed and fat ball, which will attract far more birds in your garden than the flesh of the coconut itself.
Fat balls should not be placed out in summer when they can go rancid or melt in hot weather. During the winter months, however, they can give many backyard birds the fat, protein, and other nutrients they need to safely and healthily make it through the coldest part of the year.
Traditionally, suet is used to make fat balls, but vegans or vegetarians may wish to avoid animal fats. Coconut oil melts more easily, but in the winter, it is a viable substitute. Typically, you should mix around 1/3 fat or coconut oil with 2/3 dry ingredients – typically seeds like sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, oats, millet, maize, etc.
You can pack the mix into a half coconut shell that can be hung up in a suitable spot in the garden and watch as birds flock to your makeshift feeder.
How To Provide Coconut for Birds
As we have learned above, if you want to provide coconut for birds, the best way to do so is to hang a rinsed half-shell with its white flesh in your garden.
Once the flesh has gone, or if you have eaten the flesh, you can also use the shell as a receptacle for fat ball feeders in winter. This can be made with suet, as is traditional, or with coconut oil for a vegan-friendly option.
Is Coconut the Best Option To Feed Birds Where you Live?
It is important to remember that coconut might not be the most eco-friendly choice if you want to feed garden birds in temperate climates.
Of course, if you have a fresh coconut for yourself or your family, giving leftovers to birds can prevent waste. Just remember, importing exotic foods that don’t grow close to home always comes at a cost to people and our planet.
Choosing local, sustainably produced foods, and better yet growing your own for yourself and garden birds, is always the best policy if you want to be as green as possible.
Remember to plant plenty of food sources in your garden, choosing native plants to feed native bird species. And in winter, consider food sources that grow as close to home as possible, or seeds or other foods you have put up earlier in the year.