Pretzels are an incredibly popular snack for kids and adults alike. Whether they prefer their pretzel salty or unsalted, soft or hard, most people have probably snacked on pretzels countless times in their lifetime.
One of the reasons humans love pretzels is that we tend to really enjoy salty foods.
Salty snacks like chips, popcorn, olives, and crackers can be a healthy addition to our diet, especially in moderation. However, birds struggle with salt.
Does salt kill wild birds? Can parrots have salty foods? Can birds eat pretzels? Is it okay to throw an unfinished bag of pretzels into the backyard for birds to enjoy?
These are all great questions! Anyone who loves backyard birds will look into whether or not the human foods they want to offer are actually good for their songbird visitors. Let’s take a look at the myths and facts about birds, pretzels, and salt.
Birds can have pretzels, but it’s best to only offer them as an occasional treat.
Does Salt Poison Birds?
You may have heard that salt is poisonous to birds.
According to the state of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, there is little evidence that salt is a problem for wild birds.
“The truth is, despite widely circulated reports that salt will kill or harm wild birds, we really do not know for sure what, if any effect, salt has on them. Contrary to some of those widely circulated reports, anecdotal evidence suggests more than likely that salt does not pose a health risk for birds. In fact, they may face more danger flying to or feeding on salt, than from any risks posed by the salt they ingest.”
They go on to talk about all the ways that birds eat salt in the wild. They often fly to roadways and sidewalks that have been salted in the winter to eat the salt pellets. They eat salt from natural salt deposits and salt licks. They even visit salt licks that have been put up for deer.
That said, parrot and pet bird experts have cautioned against feeding salty foods to pet birds because of the potential to negatively affect their electrolyte balance, hydration, and kidney function.
Are Pretzels Safe for Birds?
The salt content in pretzels varies from snack to snack.
Some pretzels come with extra salt on top, while others only use a small amount of salt in the recipe.
Here are some salt levels in popular portions and types of pretzels:
- 1 medium salted soft pretzel: 940 mg
- I medium unsalted soft pretzel: 302 mg
- 1.5 oz salted hard pretzels: 527 mg
- 1.5 oz unsalted hard pretzels: 106 mg
You can see how much variation there is! From 106 mg to 940 mg, you’re looking at very different salt content depending on what you want to offer your birds!
What About Popcorn? Is Popcorn Safe for Birds?
Popcorn is a popular snack for wild birds, and it’s also quite salty. A bag of microwave popcorn may have up to 650 mg of sodium. Few people have expressed concern about the safety of popcorn for birds, even though it has some salt in it.
Popcorn can be given directly to the birds or used to create a tasty popcorn string. These are especially popular around the holidays.
Can Birds Eat Grains?
Pretzels are made from wheat or rye flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and butter.
Most birds can eat grains safely. Granivorous birds eat the following as a major part of their diet:
- Flower seeds (sunflowers, coneflowers, wildflowers, safflower)
- Seeds from grasses and weeds
- A variety of mixed birdseed
- Grains from farms, including wheat, rice, corn, and barley
Pretzels are made from processed grains, rather than natural, whole grains. However, this process does not make these grains a problem for granivorous birds.
Species of birds that shouldn’t have grains include carnivorous birds of prey (meat-eating birds) and sugar-based hummingbirds; they will simply avoid pretzels and other grain-based bird treats.
How & When To Feed Pretzels to Wild Birds
There are a few options for feeding pretzels to wild birds.
If possible, use unsalted pretzels instead of salted ones. This includes both soft and hard pretzels. You can scatter the pretzels on the ground, put them in a feeder, or fill a feeder dish with them.
Avoid making a huge pile of pretzels, as that will attract nuisance animals like raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and chipmunks.
And don’t forget about cute little pretzel feeders!
How To Make a Pretzel Bird Feeder
Pretzel bird feeders can be really cute!
All you need are large-sized pretzels, a jar of peanut butter, some birdseed, and a paper plate.
Fill the paper plate with bird seeds. Then, coat all or half of a pretzel in peanut butter. Dip the peanut butter-covered pretzel in plenty of bird seed on the plate, making sure to cover the whole sticky surface.
That’s it! If you want to hang these tiny feeders from a tree, just tie a string or string through one of the loops of the pretzel and hang it up.
Some people put these pretzels into small cellophane bags and turn them into party favors. I like the idea of making these bird feeders with kids! It can get kind of messy, so I recommend making them outside. That way, any spillover just becomes extra food for the birds to find!
The Final Word on Feeding Pretzels to Birds
Ultimately, pretzels are mostly fine for birds. Because there are some concerns about offering too much salt to backyard birds, I recommend using salt-free pretzels whenever you can.
That said, if you have some extra salted pretzels that you’d rather give to the birds than throw away, then it’s probably fine. You’re not going to poison any birds by offering some salted pretzels.
Offering pretzels to birds gives you the chance to provide a tasty snack to your backyard visitors. Make sure you are only offering “people snacks” like pretzels as part of a tasty, enriching diet of nutritious food options like birdseed, fresh fruit, and peanut butter.