I’m not going to lie: I love mushrooms.
I like mushrooms on pizza, in pasta, and on top of a salad. I am absolutely overjoyed every year that I manage to find some wild morels in the woods behind my house.
I like taking pictures of interesting mushrooms on trees and in the dirt and sending them to friends or showing them to my kids. I also know that identifying mushrooms is complicated, and it’s not safe to just pop any random mushroom in your mouth to see what it takes like!
What does this have to do with birding? Well, if it takes some effort for people to know whether or not a wild mushroom is safe to eat, then what about birds?
Bird lovers may have quite a few questions about this. Can birds eat wild mushrooms? What about mushrooms from the grocery store? Is there any value in giving mushrooms to birds? Or, is there any risk in scattering mushrooms on the ground to see if wild birds want to eat them?
These are great questions! Let’s take a look at the Dos and Don’ts of offering mushrooms to wild birds.
What Kinds of Birds Eat Mushrooms?
You’ve probably heard of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, but did you know there is such a thing as a fungivore?
Fungivores eat fungi, either as a major part of their diet or just part of it. The act of eating mushrooms is called “mycophagy.”
Not all birds participate in mycophagy. Some that do include:
- Canada jays
- Siberian jays
- Oregon jays
- Black-throated huet-huets
- Chucao Tapaculos
In addition to these wild birds that eat mushrooms, backyard poultry like chickens will often eat mushrooms. However, they don’t know to stay away from mushrooms which may make them sick.
If you let your chickens free-range, it is best to keep them away from areas where unfamiliar mushrooms are growing.
You can always feed store-bought mushrooms to chickens because any mushroom that is safe for humans is also safe for poultry.
Can Wild Birds Eat Store-Bought Mushrooms?
Wild birds probably won’t be interested in store-bought mushrooms.
Even the birds who consume fungi as part of their diet are not seeking them out from a birdfeeder. Even if you live where mushroom-eating birds live, there is no guarantee that putting mushrooms out for the birds will attract them to your yard or supplement their diet.
What If I Use Mushrooms in a Recipe? Can Birds Have Cooked Mushrooms?
Some people like to leave table scraps and water for birds to help attract them to their yards. They might put the scraps on a plate or dish, or they might scatter the leftovers on the ground.
This is an appealing strategy for reducing food waste. It also gives you the chance to feed the birds by trial and error. You can learn what your backyard visitors enjoy by offering kitchen scraps and watching what happens.
In general, feeding table scraps to wild birds is fine. If a dish included mushrooms meant for human consumption, those mushrooms are safe for the birds.
Important note: Garlic and onions can cause problems for birds, like digestive issues and ulcers. Because mushrooms are often cooked in recipes with lots of garlic and onions, you may choose to avoid putting out these kinds of dishes for your backyard birds.
Drawbacks of Feeding Mushrooms to Birds
Whether you are feeding raw or cooked mushrooms to your birds, there are some possible drawbacks to be aware of.
- If the birds aren’t interested, you may end up making quite a mess that you have to clean up later!
- Squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and other cute but troublemaking backyard pests may find the food much more appealing than the birds. Attracting these animals to your yard isn’t usually what most people are trying to do!
- Food that doesn’t get eaten can go bad. Nobody wants a moldy, messy pile of mushrooms or leftovers in their yard or their bird feeders.
The Final Word: Should You Feed Mushrooms to Birds?
Lots of garden birds can eat a pretty big variety of foods. When you offer interesting foods like pecans, peanut butter, sesame seed, or even eggs, you end up casting a wide net. You can appeal to more species of birds by offering plenty of different food items.
Oh, and offering a mixture of bird seed and human foods is a great idea when bird feeders have become a health risk to local bird populations.
With all that said, most birds just aren’t going to be very interested in mushrooms. It may not be worth it to prepare or offer mushrooms to the birds that aren’t going to eat them after all.
If you do want to see what happens when you feed mushrooms to wild birds, I recommend just offering a little bit at a time. That way, you can see if there is any interest before you spend time or effort giving them any more.