If you have ever waited until the end of the fall season to get rid of a decorative pumpkin on your porch, you may have noticed birds coming around to pick at the pumpkin and eat the seeds.
Is this safe? Can birds eat pumpkin? And if they can eat the pumpkins that they find out in nature, does that mean it’s okay to purposefully feed a pumpkin to your backyard birds?
These are great questions! Thoughtful birders should always ask themselves about the potential positive and negative impacts of anything they offer the birds that visit their property.
Good news: pumpkin is a healthy treat for birds, with wonderful nutrients! Let’s take a look at what you need to know about feeding raw pumpkins to birds.
Are Pumpkins Safe for Wildlife To Eat?
Birds are not the only creatures who eat pumpkins.
Pumpkin is a popular treat for many kinds of wildlife, including deer, raccoons, squirrels, and opossums. In fact, they are such a tasty treat that many people who grow pumpkins spend a lot of time trying to keep wild animals out of their pumpkin gardens!
Is Pumpkin Harmful to Birds?
There are no parts of the pumpkin that are harmful to birds. Wild birds, geese, ducks, and chickens can all safely eat the skin, flesh, and seeds of a pumpkin. Pet birds can also enjoy small amounts of pumpkin as a treat!
Pumpkin in its natural state is not harmful to birds. However, pumpkins that have been painted can be a problem for birds, because the paint itself has the potential to be toxic.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Eating Pumpkin?
There are definitely health benefits for birds who eat pumpkins!
Pumpkin seeds are especially nutritious. They contain the following nutrients: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
They are also high in calories, which is important for birds who are recovering from or preparing to migrate.
The protein in pumpkins helps birds maintain their necessary energy levels.
Are There Any Health Risks to Eating Pumpkin?
Fortunately, there are no significant health risks associated with consuming pumpkins.
However, you should avoid feeding processed pumpkin products, such as candied or sugared pumpkin seed mixes, because of the unnecessarily high sugar, fat, and artificial flavorings that can be found in these products.
How Much Is Too Much Pumpkin?
If you toss a pumpkin into the yard for the birds, they likely won’t eat too much of it. However, if you are feeding a flock of backyard poultry or a pet bird, there are some limits to how much you should give them.
For example, a parakeet’s diet should mostly be made up of pellets, with 15-25% of their calories coming from vegetables and 10-15% coming from fruit. This means that it is best to limit their pumpkin to no more than about 15% each day you offer it to them.
A small flock of backyard chickens should only be offered pumpkin every other day or so because too many treats can lead them to have an unbalanced diet.
What About Baby Birds? Can Baby Birds Eat Pumpkin?
Baby birds receive all of their nutrition from their parents until they are old enough to forage on their own.
Adult birds know what to give and withhold from their babies, but in short, everything that an adult bird can eat is edible for babies. This includes pumpkin and the additional vitamins it provides.
Different Parts of a Pumpkin: What Can Birds Eat?
I hope that so far, you have learned that yes, pumpkin is a healthy treat and an excellent source of nutrition for birds! Let’s take a closer look at some more common questions that people ask about feeding pumpkins to birds. Specifically, we need to take a look at a variety of pumpkin parts and pumpkin products!
Is It Okay to Feed Birds Pumpkin Seeds?
Absolutely! Pumpkin seeds are one of the most nutritious parts of the pumpkin plant.
Will Birds Eat the Whole Seed? Or Do I Need to Crush The Seeds?
For the most part, birds will eat the whole unprocessed seed (i.e. the content in pumpkin seeds). Most birders offer fully intact pumpkin seeds to their birds, rather than cutting them up or crushing them. That process is quite difficult, and not really necessary.
Do I Need to Cook the Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds mold quickly if they are just thrown out into the garden or yard.
To make this treat last longer, I recommend roasting the seeds before offering them to the birds. After washing off the pulp from the seeds, spread them out on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. When they are golden brown, remove them and let them cool.
At this point, you could eat the seeds yourself or feed them to the birds.
Can the Seeds Be Salted or Flavored?
Birds don’t need the additional flavors that humans prefer. There is no need to salt or season the pumpkin seeds that you plan to give to the birds.
In fact, adding those salts and flavorings can be disruptive to the birds’ natural diet.
Can Birds Eat Pepitas?
A pepita is a kind of pumpkin seed, and yes, it is fine to give pepitas to birds! It could be one of their favorite foods.
Can Birds Eat the Meat and Pulp of a Pumpkin? What About the Fibrous Strands, Rind, and Stem?
I have another yes for you! Birds can eat the raw pumpkin skin, pulp, and fibrous strands of a pumpkin. They may choose not to eat the rind or the stem, but there is nothing unsafe about offering it to them. Even cooked pumpkins!
Can Birds Eat Other Pumpkin Products?
Pumpkin is used in many other products, including purees, muffins, bread, and pumpkin pies.
These are not inherently unsafe for birds, but too many sweet pumpkin dishes and sugary treats can interfere with a bird’s healthy and nutritious diet. If you have left these items out for birds in the past, you likely have not caused any harm.
However, it is our recommendation to stick to raw or cooked pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, rather than processed foods like bakery items.
Birds Enjoy Pumpkins–So Have Fun Giving Them What They Love!
It can be great fun to give nutritious, desirable treats to the birds in your backyard.
Giving pumpkins to the birds is a great way to increase the number of birds you see at your feeders or in your yard and provide them with an abundance of nutrients for a healthy diet. I think you will love seeing them discover and snack on the perfect pumpkins you provide!