Can Birds Eat Cranberries? How and Why To Feed Them to Birds

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If you want to do all you can for the birds that share your space, you will no doubt want to know what you can and should give them to eat. Should you provide cranberries for birds? And if so, what is the best way to offer them?

Birds can eat cranberries, and many will do so. They are part of the natural diet of various wild birds you might find in your garden. Cranberries are suitable for birds to eat, provide excellent nutrition, and won’t harm them. However, they are not necessarily a favorite due to their sharp taste, and many birds may prefer a sweeter offering.

Read on to learn a little more, delve a little deeper, and find the answers to other common questions about feeding cranberries to birds that you might be looking for.

Do Birds Like Cranberries?

Birds eat cranberries in the wild as a natural part of their diet. But this does not necessarily mean that they particularly like to eat them. When given a choice, birds may often opt for sweeter fruits rather than ones like raw cranberries with a tart taste or a sour taste.

Many birds will eat them when no other more delicious raw berries exist. But, if you are growing them in your garden for your consumption, you won’t necessarily have to worry about excessive theft by feathered visitors in the same way you would when growing fruits that are tastier for berry-eating birds.

If you keep pet birds, you may find that they too prefer sweeter offerings to fresh cranberry. But, as many bird owners will attest, they will often still consume them if offered with other food.

Which Birds Eat Cranberries?

Wild birds living in or around a wetland or boggy woodland environments where cranberries grow are among those that eat cranberries as a part of their natural diet. Some birds commonly known to consume cranberries include Cardinals, Chickadees, Finches, Grosbeaks, Jays, Nuthatches, Titmice, Warblers, Woodpeckers, and Wrens.

These birds do not seem to mind the sour flavor of the berries and so will eat them readily, either from bushes or bird feeders.

Offer garden birds cranberries, and you may find that some species take them gladly, while others may be pickier and prefer a different source of nutrients if offered.

Are Cranberries Poisonous to Birds?

Cranberries are a part of the wild diet of many different bird species. They are not poisonous to any species and can be beneficial when consumed as part of their diet.

What are the Health Benefits of Cranberries for Birds?

Can Birds Eat Cranberries

Birds may not find raw cranberries a favorite because of their sour taste. However, cranberries are a good source of essential antioxidants that boost the bird’s immune system.

They also contain copper, beneficial vitamins C, E, and K1, and other nutrients to keep birds flying fit. Though they might not be considered a treat, they can be helpful when added to a balanced diet for wild, garden, and pet birds.

How to Provide Cranberries for Birds

By far, the best way to provide cranberries for birds is to grow some in your garden. If you live in a suitable area with the right type of soil and growing conditions, then growing berry-producing shrubs is one of the best things you can do to help and support the berry-eating birds in your area.

Types of cranberries that might be grown in North America include:

Vaccinium macrocarpon, the American cranberry, is a trailing shrub native to central and eastern Canada and the north-central United States (The Northeast, Great Lakes region, and the Appalachian Mountains as far south as North Carolina and Tennessee.)

Vaccinium oxycoccos, the Common or Northern cranberry, is widespread throughout the cool, temperate northern hemisphere, including northern North America.

Vaccinium microcarpum, the Small cranberry, also occurs in northern North America.

Vaccinium erythrocarpum, the Southern Mountain cranberry, is native to southeastern North America at high altitudes in the Appalachian mountains.

If you live in an area where one or more of the above is a native plant, then selecting one of these types to grow in your area could be an excellent choice for a wildlife-friendly garden and will help attract birds, as well as other beneficial wildlife, life into your space.

Cranberries grow in moist to waterlogged conditions, so they could be a good choice for a bog garden, a damp coniferous forest or woodland area, or the area adjacent to a wildlife pond.

If you cannot easily grow cranberries or other related berry-producing shrubs like blueberries or huckleberries where you live, then you may wish to consider planting other native plants which provide fresh fruit or berries for birds in your garden.

Another way to provide cranberries for birds is to place a handful of fresh cranberries on a bird table or at another feeding station.

Are Dried Cranberries Safe for Birds?

To provide a meal for as many different birds as possible, you may also wish to consider drying cranberries. If you dry cranberries at home, you can be sure that you provide natural cranberries without harmful substances.

Dried berries are sweeter and therefore more palatable to many different birds, who might not favor raw cranberries due to their almost vinegary taste. You can serve them up as they are or give pieces of cranberries to smaller birds can enjoy them, giving them a well-balanced diet.

However, you should never feed birds dried cranberries from the store since these have usually been preserved with the addition of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide that can cause harm to birds, even in minimal amounts. Only use sulfite-free dried fruits for birds and avoid any fruit preservatives. 

Can Birds Eat Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Juice?

Some birds will also eat cranberry sauce or sip on cranberry juice. But, again, only feed birds with cranberry sauce or juice that you have made at home, without adding sugar or sweeteners.

Too much sugar in cranberry juice can be harmful to birds, just as it is for us. And other sweeteners can harm garden birds and should never be left out for them. As long as you keep the sauce or juice limited to cranberries and nothing else, these will also be beneficial additions to the diet of the birds you wish to aid in your garden.

Just remember, if you wish to leave these things out for birds, you should only use shallow containers with protection to ensure that birds don’t fall in or get the food on their feathers, which could impair their flight.

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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.