Can Birds Eat Poppy Seeds? A Comprehensive Guide on Feeding Your Birds

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Seeds are the perfect thing to provide for granivorous (seed-eating) birds visiting your garden. Some types of seeds can be a good source of protein for your birds.

However, it is important to understand that different seeds have different nutritional compositions, shapes, and sizes, making them more or less appealing to different species of birds.

Poppy seeds are a great choice for feeding a number of bird species. But which birds eat it? Is it good for them? And what is the best way to provide poppy seeds for the birds visiting your garden? Read on to find out more.

Can Birds Eat Poppy Seeds?

Birds do indeed eat poppy seeds. Some will take them directly from the fields, farms, or gardens where they grow, while others feed on them when delivered at a bird feeder.

Poppies are a number of different species within the Papaveraceae plant family. Some of the most common poppies are the field poppy or common poppy, Papaver rhoeas, the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, the oriental poppy, Papaver orientale, and, perhaps most familiar to North American growers, the California poppy, Eschscholzia California.

Though there are also a number of other flowers given the common name poppy from around the world.

The type of poppy from which edible seeds are most commonly derived is Papaver somniferum. This type is commonly found sprinkled atop bagels or in other baked goods.

These poppy seeds are also commonly used in commercial birdseed mixes, sometimes maw seeds. These seeds are a good source of fiber and have traces of minerals and fatty acids that are beneficial for your birds.

Poppy seeds for the consumption of both people and birds come in different colors, sometimes used in a culinary context in different ways. They come in blue, black, and white.

The seeds of Papaver rhoeas can also be eaten by people and by birds. And birds, though not people, also eat the seeds of California poppies.

In North America and California, poppy seeds are also often used in commercially sold feeds for backyard birds and poultry.

Which Birds Eat Poppy Seeds?

can birds eat poppy seeds

In your backyard, poppy seeds are eaten by many songbirds, smaller seed-eating species, and some smaller species that most commonly eat other things but also include seeds as a part of their diet.

Finches, siskins, and sparrows are among the birds that will like to eat poppy seeds in the garden – both from the plants where these are grown and from backyard feeders.

Pet birds like finches, canaries, and budgies also eat poppy seeds, sometimes added as a supplement to their feed to aid digestion and provide them with nutrition.

Are Poppy Seeds Poisonous to Birds?

Many people worry about the opioids present in poppy seeds from Papaver somniferum. It is indeed the case that if people eat too many poppy seeds, this can cause a false negative for illegal drugs.

Although the drug opium is produced by “milking” latex from unripe fruits (“seed pods”) rather than from the seeds, all parts of the plant can contain or carry the opium alkaloids, including the seeds, in small amounts.

But while some believe that birds eating poppy seeds in fields, such as cockatoos in Tasmania, are addicted to opium, it seems that instead, the birds are not affected by the opiates and instead are interested in the fat content within the seeds.

In excess, there can be issues for many birds consuming too many poppy seeds of this kind. But in general, poppy seeds, in moderation, can be perfectly safe for birds to eat.

And other Papaver poppies and California poppy seeds are also perfectly safe for birds to eat. Some bird families are carnivorous birds and can feed on animal food and fresh food items.

Are Poppy Seeds Good for Birds?

Poppy seeds are rich in fat and protein. Poppy seeds have around 50% fat and almost 22% protein. These give birds an energy boost.

Whichever type of poppy seeds we are talking about, the fat and protein make them a healthy snack when offered in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Ensure your diet has dry food, especially for indoor birds, to ensure a healthy bird.

You can get your poppy seeds from health food stores. Ensure your birds have access to minerals, particularly essential minerals, to facilitate their good health.

How To Provide Poppy Seeds for Birds

You might provide poppy seeds for the birds in your garden in two main ways. You might include poppies as part of bird-attracting, bird-feeding planting in your garden, or you might purchase or collect poppy seeds and add these to bird feeders.

Growing Poppies To Attract Garden Birds

First, you might grow some type of poppy where you live. Note that it may be illegal to grow opium poppies where you live. But you might grow poppies from Europe – like Papaver rhoeas – in your garden.

Or, better yet, grow some California poppies native to Western N. America – from Washington to California and Nevada.

California poppies are known to provide seeds that birds can eat and attract wildlife in your garden – including the insect species that many birds also like to eat.

As perennial plants, these can be placed in your garden and will grow over a number of years. They are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6-11. They are also good perennial groundcover for zone 2 firebreaks in areas prone to wildfires.

Adding Poppy Seeds to Bird Feeders

Secondly, you might purchase some poppy seeds to place with other seeds in a birdseed feeder to attract as many different seed-eating birds as possible. Or, if you are growing poppies on your property, collect the seeds to place in a bird feeder.

Poppy seeds should be combined with others, like sunflower seeds, to attract species with different preferences and needs.

Remember, many commercial birdseed mixes are not optimal for bird nutrition and may contain fillers that are not as good for birds.

So, where possible, it is ideal for mixing your own birdseed mixes, utilizing seeds you know to be beneficial and enjoyed by the specific birds sharing your space.

To be as green and eco-friendly as possible, choose seeds you can grow at home or seeds that grow as close to home as possible.

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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.