Can Birds Eat Flax Seed? Here Are All the Health Benefits

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Many seed-eating birds can be found in gardens, and many keen birdwatchers and bird lovers will place out seeds or seed mixes to keep their garden visitors well fed. But which seeds should you use? One question that you might have is: can birds eat flax seeds? Should you place these out for the flying friends who share your space?

Do Birds Eat Flax Seed?

There are plenty of seeds that can be used to feed the seed-eating birds in your garden and flax seeds are indeed one of them. Many birds that will eat other seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. will also eat flax seeds without any problems at all.

Flax seeds are relatively small and as such, can be eaten by a wide range of birds. These seeds may have a hard coating, but any bird that has a bill and digestive system adapted to seed-eating should not have any problem with this type of seed. In fact, these birds will find it to be a beneficial and delicious part of their diet.

Some birds can crack the outer coating and eat the seeds, while others will eat the seed if it has been ground first. Feeding both whole and ground flax seeds can be a good option if you want to cater to as many different birds as possible.

Birds eat flax seeds wherever they can be found, whether in the wild or on agricultural land. They will also commonly feed on these seeds when they are placed in bird feeders or on bird tables in gardens.

Flax seeds are commonly found within wild bird seed mixes that people buy at the store. In addition to this, they are often recommended for inclusion within mixed seed bird food, especially those used in the winter months.

Which Birds Eat Flax Seed?

Pigeons, doves, finches, robins… these are just some of the birds that enjoy a meal of flax seeds in your garden.

Pet birds will also appreciate the taste of flax seeds and will enjoy eating some of these healthy seeds when they are provided.

All birds that eat seeds will enjoy flax seeds, although many will prefer them in ground form, as this will make it much easier for them to access the nutrients that flax seeds contain.

What Are the Benefits of Flax Seed For Birds?

Flax seeds have numerous health benefits for birds. They are a great source of many essential nutrients required by birds as part of a healthy diet. They are a source of dietary fiber, plant protein, vitamins C, E, K and a range of B vitamins, and several minerals.

They are also a great source of fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. However, as we know, fats should only be eaten in moderation. Similar to humans, consuming too many fats can be unhealthy for birds, leading to obesity and a range of health problems.

However, birds do need fats, especially as they try to conserve their energy during the winter months when fewer natural food sources are available.

How Many Flax Seeds Should You Give Garden Birds?

Due to their high-fat content, flax seeds (either whole flax seeds or ground flax seeds) should only be added in moderation, among other seeds, and not as the bulk of a bird’s diet.

These seeds can be especially beneficial to wild birds during the winter months, as well as when the birds are trying to store fat before the leaner months arrive.

It is best to mix in the flax seed, whether ground or whole, with other seeds to provide seed-eating birds with a more balanced nutritional mix.

How Should You Serve The Flax Seeds To Your Visiting Birds?

Can Birds Eat Flax Seed

So, we have established that flax seeds are eaten by a range of birds. They will appreciate the fats and other nutrients they provide and seem to like their taste.

But how should you serve the flax seeds to the birds that visit your garden?

Can Birds Eat Whole Flax Seeds?

Larger seed-eating birds can eat raw flax seeds whole with no problem at all. Many species of wild birds are easily able to crack through the hard seed coating.

However, some other seed-eating birds may struggle to crack these hard-coated seeds. In order to cater to as many different seed-eating species as possible, many choose to use ground flax seed or grind the seeds themselves, before adding them to tables or feeders.

Both brown seeds and golden flax seeds are the same when it comes to the nutritional content, and both are wonderful for birds as long as you do not feed them too many all at once.

Remember, however, that with their fat content, flax seeds can go bad. If they are past their date or you suspect that they may have expired, do not feed these to the birds, as this could cause them harm.

Should You Give Ground Flax Seeds to Birds?

Providing ground flax seed as part of a seed mix for wild birds is a great option, since, as mentioned above, it makes the nutrients they contain available to a wider range of bird species.

You can use a coffee grinder to grind whole flax seeds for the birds. But if grinding them seems like too much of a challenge, then you can also consider soaking the seeds in water to make them easier for the birds to crack into, and easier for them to digest.

Can Birds Have Flax Seed Oil?

If you have some leftovers containing flax seed oil, then it won’t do any harm to the birds if you leave it out for them. However, oily or sticky substances can create problems for birds if they get into their feathers, and may impair their flight. So be cautious about leaving out anything that is not dry food.

Also, flax seed oil does not contain as many nutrients as the seeds themselves, so whole or ground seeds are the best option if you want to boost the health and wellbeing of the birds in your garden.

Can Birds Eat Cooked Flax Seed?

When flax seed is roasted, typically the inner kernel will come out of the outer shell. Without their outer shells, these seeds will be easier for a range of birds to eat. So cooked and unseasoned flax seeds will be fine for garden wild birds to eat. Just remember if you are thinking about leaving out leftovers for the birds you will also need to consider other ingredients.

Do not leave out anything too salty or sweet for the birds, since, just like us, they need to obtain the bulk of their nutrients from healthy foods, and need a varied and balanced diet for optimal health.

Which Other Seeds Should You Feed To Birds?

Sunflower seeds are one other type of seed that is often beneficial to add to seed mixes. Black oil sunflower seeds are great for many songbirds, while larger, striped sunflower seeds are great for larger birds with stronger bills. Hulled sunflowers are also good for smaller birds because they are easier for them to eat.

Nyger seeds are tiny, and are high in oil, making them another good choice for winter feeding, alongside flax. They are eaten by finches, redpolls, and pine siskins, as well as several other wild bird species.

Millet is another small seed useful in birdseed mixes. Doves, juncos, sparrows, buntings, and many other birds will prefer it.

Safflower seed is tough, and birds need strong bills to crack it. But this is a popular option with birds like cardinals, house finches, nuthatches, grosbeaks, and jays.

Cracked corn is cheap and often used as filler for birdseed mixes. Despite its cost-effective quality, cracked corn is rich in protein and fiber and high in carbohydrates that will attract many different types of birds.

Remember, flax seeds are best fed in moderation alongside a range of other choices for seed-eating birds. This way, you can make sure that they have a nutritious, balanced diet, keeping your feathered friends happy and healthy.

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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.