Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops to grow in a home garden. We all know they can be an excellent food source for us and our families. But do birds also eat them?
If you are a gardener, you might wonder what is eating or damaging your tomato plants and whether birds could be the culprit. Alternatively, you might be wondering whether you can feed tomatoes to wild birds in your garden (perhaps some kitchen scraps or leftovers) or whether you can feed tomatoes to pet birds.
Whatever questions you have in mind when asking “can birds eat tomatoes?” we have the answers below.
Do Birds Eat Tomatoes?
Most people who have gardened for a while will already be well aware that birds do indeed eat tomatoes from the plant. In some cases, you may struggle to ensure they leave enough for you to harvest yourself!
Depending on where you live and the bird species present in your area, you may find that birds are quick to pounce on any ripe fruits before you get the chance to do so.
Sometimes, the whole fruit will simply be gone. Sometimes, you may find tomatoes with holes pecked in them. Either way, where there are a lot of birds, this can be a serious issue for gardeners, and they will have to take steps to protect their crops to make sure they can harvest the fruits themselves.
Do Birds Eat Unripe Green Tomatoes?
While, most frequently, birds will wait for fruits to get ripe before they take them, sometimes, birds will peck off unripe tomatoes too. They have also been known to peck off flowers before the fruits even get the chance to form.
However, the birds often don’t eat them but nip off the flowers or the forming fruits in their pursuit of the insects around them – which many birds like to eat.
Do Birds Eat Tomato Leaves?
You may already be aware that the leaves of tomato plants can be toxic to humans if eaten in sufficient quantity, and they have some potential toxicity for birds, too. But some birds will peck at tomato leaves, especially while they are still small and tender.
Sometimes, again, the birds will be in pursuit of insects or removing leaves to get at ripe fruits rather than taking the leaves to eat them. But they can sometimes take a bite.
Another reason birds might break off and take tomato leaves is not to eat them but rather because they wish to use them in making their nests. This is another potential source of bird damage when growing tomatoes in your garden.
Do Birds Eat Tomato Seeds?
Another problem for gardeners who direct-sow tomatoes in the garden is that birds may eat them, especially when seeds are sown close to the surface of the soil or growing medium.
There is a range of seed-eating birds that can pose a problem and eat many of the seeds you plant in your garden before they get the chance to germinate.
Do Birds Eat Tomato Seedlings?
Some birds will also pluck young seedlings from the ground to eat – including very young tomato plants. Some will pluck up seedlings and kill them but not eat them, which is another annoying problem for gardeners.
Birds are more likely to eat seedlings of other types, such as brassicas (cabbage family plants), but this problem can also occur with tomatoes.
How To Stop Birds Eating Tomatoes in Your Garden
If you encounter problems with birds eating tomatoes in your garden, the best way to deal with this issue is to ensure that there are plenty of other food sources for birds around in your garden and that fresh water is available.
Birds will often peck into tomatoes, not because they are hungry, but for the moisture they contain. So providing a water source such as a wildlife pond or another water feature can often prevent (or at least lessen) a pecking problem.
Having plenty of other food sources around lessens the impact of garden birds on any summer crop.
Often, planting plenty of berry bushes, seed-producing plants, and other food source plants in your garden can help ensure you can keep the crops safe.
With a biodiverse, food-filled garden, there should be plenty to go around, and birds are less likely to become a problem.
Of course, in addition to providing food through garden planting, you might also feed birds at a bird feeder, bird table, or other bird feeding stations. Choosing the right food sources can help keep birds well-fed and healthy and less inclined to go after your precious tomatoes.
In some cases, however, birds will be determined to eat your tomatoes before you do! In such cases, the only effective measure you can take is adding row covers or other forms of protection over your vegetable garden beds to exclude birds from the area.
Some gardeners use other strategies, such as scarecrows or other bird scarers. But realistically, these really are not all that effective, and even when they are, they don’t tend to work for long.
Should You Feed Tomatoes to Wild Birds or Pet Birds?
Though those growing tomatoes may sometimes find birds a pest, it is important to remember that encouraging wild birds to your garden brings many more benefits than problems. Birds, of course, help fertilize your garden and keep nature’s cycles turning. Some aid in pollination, while many help keeps pest numbers down.
So, when growing tomatoes, you might want to take steps to protect your crop, which means, as mentioned above, making sure that there is plenty for birds to eat, too.
You might be wondering whether tomatoes are something you can and should feed to wild birds in your garden or your pet birds.
The answer is yes, perhaps, but only in moderation.
Are Tomatoes Good for Birds?
Tomatoes are a good source of a range of vitamins and other nutrients that birds need, so they can benefit their health in many ways.
However, they have high levels of acid, which can cause digestive issues for some birds. Moreover, leaving too many fresh fruits and vegetables in your garden can encourage animals like rats that you likely won’t want to see.
So tomatoes, if offered, should only ever be given in moderation, a small amount at a time, and as part of a more balanced diet.
How To Serve Tomatoes to Birds
If you decide that you would like to serve tomatoes to the birds in your garden, perhaps because you have a glut of the fruit, or have leftovers that you are not going to eat, then you could leave some out on a bird table or at another feeding station.
Ideally, any tomatoes you feed to birds (and any that you eat yourself, for that matter) should be organic and grown locally, as close to home as possible, if not in your backyard. We should all eat and buy locally and seasonally to do the right thing for people and our planet.
Can Birds Eat Raw Tomatoes?
As mentioned above, birds can and do eat tomatoes raw. You can simply take a handful of fresh tomatoes, either whole or chopped, and place them out for the birds in your garden. Just make sure these are fresh and not rotting, and all the greenery has been removed, to prevent any potential problems.
Can Birds Eat Cooked Tomatoes?
Cooked tomatoes won’t harm birds and can also be left out for feathered friends that share your space. Feeding food leftovers to birds can be an excellent way to prevent waste from ending up in a landfill.
But if there is salt or other ingredients in your leftovers, don’t feed these to the birds, as the salt can be harmful even in relatively small amounts. Instead, add scraps to a composting system to return them to the soil in your garden.
Can Birds Have Tomato Sauce/ Ketchup?
Tomato sauce can be left out for birds in a shallow dish or tray. But again, make sure there are no other added ingredients like salt that might cause harm.
Ketchup is not a good thing to feed birds as it contains salt and sugar. Canned tomatoes also have had citric acid or lemon juice added and this makes them even more acidic.
Can Birds Have Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are also safe to feed to wild birds in your garden and pet birds. They have less acid content than fresh fruit and can be the best option.
A ripe tomato is not the most obvious food to leave out for garden birds, but can be a perfectly safe treat in small quantities to feed to garden birds or your pet.