Can Birds Eat Ice Cream? We Say Yes, in Moderation

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Have you ever seen a big plop of ice cream melting on the hot summer sidewalk outside of an ice cream store? A kid may be crying nearby, asking their parents for another treat to replace the lost one.

Birds in urban areas can often be seen fluttering between tables at cafes, sneaking french fries and fallen table scraps. Is it a problem for these birds if they go after that rich, dairy-based ice cream?

The next question is: if birds can eat ice cream, is it okay to give them ice cream?

Wild birds can eat small amounts of ice cream without an issue, but in general, you want to avoid giving it directly to them.

Can Birds Eat Dairy? Is Dairy Toxic to Birds?

Birds cannot digest lactose.

Mammals drink milk from birth but then wean from drinking it later. Birds, of course, aren’t mammals! They never drink milk and have no enzymes for digesting it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s toxic to them. It just means that large amounts of milk can cause problems because the sugars in milk don’t break down in the bird’s digestive tract. They may develop diarrhea or intestinal discomfort if they consume large quantities of milk or lactose.

Pet birds can be given dairy in very small quantities unless their owners notice that it seems to be causing them discomfort. Some parrot and budgie owners enjoy giving their birds small nibbles of cheese or bites of ice cream.

Will Ice Cream Make Wild Birds Sick?

A bird snacking on a little bit of ice cream is not in danger of becoming violently ill.

There is no way for ice cream to become a big enough part of a bird’s diet in the wild to become much of an issue. Indeed, a bird might sometimes find some ice cream or even steal some as this seagull did!

But it is highly unlikely that a bird will access enough ice cream to make it sick.

Do Birds Like Ice Cream Cones?

Birds may be more interested in plain ice cream cones than they are in the ice cream itself.

The two main ingredients in an ice cream cone are flour and sugar. Neither is toxic to birds and in moderation, it can be a yummy snack.

There are even cute tutorials online for making adorable ice cream cone bird feeders! All you need to do is cover the outside of an ice cream cone with something sticky like peanut butter, and then dip it in birdseed, cereal, or other tasty bird treats!

This works with any kind of ice cream cone, from sugar cones and wafer cones to waffle cones. You can use a pipe cleaner or a piece of kitchen twine to hang the ice cream cone feeder from a tree branch or birdfeeder pole.

This is a great craft for kids and can introduce them to the joyful world of backyard birding!

Can I Feed Ice Cream to my Backyard Birds?

I don’t recommend feeding ice cream to the wild birds that visit your backyard and garden.

First of all, it’s a pretty expensive “treat” that they might not even express any interest in!

Second, even if they eat some of it, they will likely leave a mess behind.

Finally, it doesn’t offer them any meaningful nutritional value.

Can I Feed Ice Cream to My Pet Parrot?

Pet parrots can eat ice cream in moderation. Be sure to only offer plain vanilla ice cream and avoid over-feeding them with sugary treats.

As a pet bird owner, it’s your responsibility to provide your bird with a healthy diet that is full of nutritious foods. You are your bird’s only source of nutrition! This is a big responsibility.

If you want to feed your bird ice cream, a small bite now and then is probably fine. Most pet bird experts would tell you not to make it a consistent habit.

Alternatives to Ice Cream for Birds

If you really, really want to feed your birds something frozen, you can always go with a non-dairy option like frozen yogurt.

However, my favorite option is to give them ice!

Ice cubes in the summer can help birds cool down and avoid overheating. Throw some cubed ice into your birdbath to give the birds a cool treat. If they don’t eat the ice cubes fast enough, the water will still be cool and refreshing.

You could also leave a pile of crushed ice on a platter on a hot summer day and enjoy watching the birds come and go for an icy treat.

Important Note: No Chocolate for Birds!

I can’t wrap up this post without talking about one really important reminder: birds can’t have chocolate.

Chocolate contains two problem ingredients: theobromine and caffeine.

Birds who eat chocolate may experience vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, tremors or seizures, hyperactivity, and possibly even death.

Dark chocolate contains more of these problematic components than milk chocolate. While it’s true that chocolate ice cream probably doesn’t contain very much caffeine or theobromine, it’s not worth the risk.

Nobody wants to risk making a bird sick or accidentally killing it when trying to give it something tasty. Chocolate ice cream or ice cream with chocolate sprinkles or syrup should both be avoided.

To Conclude, Moderation Is Key with Ice Cream

Birds will not typically get themselves into trouble by stealing ice cream or finding some on a busy city sidewalk. Because there is some risk to eating ice cream, it is best to avoid giving it to birds.

Instead, give them a homemade ice cream cone feeder, a dairy-free frozen treat, or crushed ice. This will let you spoil your pet or backyard birds a little bit without risking their health and safety.

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Liz Ranfeld

Liz Boltz Ranfeld is an independent educator and writer from Indiana. She lives on the edge of the woods with her husband, 2 kids, dogs, chickens, and hedgehog. One of the best things of living in rural Indiana is spotting hawks, pileated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and other wild creatures. She enjoys hiking, canoeing, and gardening, and one of her personal heroes is the conservationist and birdwatcher Rosalie Barrow Edge, who paved the way for the protection of birds around the globe.