Marshmallows are a sweet and fluffy delight, whether they’re roasting over a campfire to melt into a s’more or floating in our hot chocolates as they steam in our mugs.
With all that sugary goodness, you might be thinking about sharing the love with your feathered friends. After all, sugar is energy, right?
Read on to learn if marshmallows are good for birds and whether the type of marshmallows you offer makes a difference.
Can Birds Eat Marshmallows?
A marshmallow is typically made from sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. Individually, those are all ingredients that a bird can technically have safely. You will find them in both commercial bird foods and DIY bird food recipes.
When it comes to high fructose corn syrup, Cornell ornithologists suggest avoiding this artificial ingredient and sticking to natural sweeteners. That could be a bit of a hassle since you’ll find it in most store-bought marshmallows.
It is possible to find marshmallow recipes that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup, but they may contain other ingredients that aren’t bird-safe or are simply expensive. Plus, cooking homemade marshmallows is a lot of extra effort.
Another reason that this sugary treat could cause issues for birds is that marshmallows can be quite sticky, especially if they start to melt. Just like melted peanut butter, this can be a danger if it sticks to a bird’s feathers or gets transferred to eggs during nesting season.
Can Birds Eat Lucky Charms Marshmallows?
Lucky Charms marshmallows are different from the kind of marshmallows that you roast over a campfire or melt in your hot chocolate. They’re dense and hard, rather than fluffy and gooey–almost like freeze-dried strawberries or “astronaut” ice cream.
What causes the difference? Although we can’t know exactly everything that goes into a Lucky Charms marshmallow, because that information is a trade secret, what we do know is that they don’t have water or a “whipping aid” (something to add air).
So essentially, a Lucky Charms marshmallow isn’t much different from a regular marshmallow, although there’s no real danger of a gooey mess. Birds are just as able to eat Lucky Charms marshmallows as they are regular marshmallows.
Are Marshmallows Good for Birds?
Marshmallows might not hurt wild birds, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for them either. A marshmallow has a high sugar content and contains little else. It doesn’t have much to offer nutritionally.
On top of that, marshmallows can include artificial ingredients and flavorings that are dangerous for birds such as chocolate. All in all, this is a food with no real health benefits to outweigh the health risks.
Marshmallows are a type of candy, and just as candy doesn’t do a lot for human health, it also doesn’t do a lot for bird health.
While you might think that the occasional marshmallow as a little treat is fine, keep in mind that a few marshmallows are the same size as an entire songbird!
Can Birds Eat Marshmallow Fluff?
Marshmallow fluff, also known as marshmallow cream or marshmallow paste, is not the same thing as marshmallow candies. It’s a meringue made from whipped egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and a few other ingredients.
Marshmallow fluff is named after marshmallows because it tastes and looks similar to them. The kind you buy at the store has lots of artificial additives to make it shelf stable, and should not be fed to birds.
Plus, marshmallow fluff is a gooey, sticky spread that would be easy for birds to get stuck all over their feathers. It poses a risk that they will be unable to preen themselves clean, or that they could clog the pores of their eggs during nesting season.
No Fluff, Just Facts
We won’t say definitively that birds can’t eat marshmallows…but they probably shouldn’t. Marshmallows have lots of sugar, sometimes have artificial ingredients, and don’t have much in the way of nutritional value.
Stick to healthier offerings on your bird feeders–there are still plenty of other treats to delight the birds with!