Chia seeds are becoming well known to humans looking to eat a healthy plant-based diet. But are chia seeds also an option to feed to wild birds?
Do birds eat chia seeds, which ones do so, and is chia seed good for birds? Find the answers to these questions and learn more about feeding chia seeds to wild birds in your garden below.
Do Birds Eat Chia Seeds?
Birds do indeed eat chia seeds, both where they grow in the wild and where they are cultivated, and when they are offered in bird feeders or at a bird table or other bird’s feeding station.
Chia seeds are the seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the mint family that is found in the Mexican desert region, or the related Salvia columbariae, which grows in the southwestern United States and Mexico.
Chia seeds are believed to have been a staple crop grown by the Aztecs and Mesoamerican cultures. And they have also been eaten by a range of bird species within the regions where they are grown. They are a common food source both for migratory birds as they pass through these desert areas and for birds that live locally year-round.
Even in those regions where chia seeds are not growing or cultivated, chia seeds are still a portion of food that will be widely consumed at bird feeders by a range of backyard birds as an important part of their regular diet.
Which Birds Eat Chia Seeds?
Most seed-eating birds in the US, and around the world, can benefit from and will choose to eat chia seeds when these are provided in a garden.
Some seed-eating birds that are known to consume chia seeds in the US include blackbirds, blue jays, doves and pigeons, finches, and sparrows, for example. Many other birds that consume bird seeds, and also some that mostly consume other foodstuffs, will also eat chia seeds when these are provided.
Are Chia Seeds Good For Birds?
We have established that birds will eat chia seeds, but as we know, we consume things that are not always necessarily good for our health. So it is important also to ask not only whether birds can and do eat chia seeds, but also whether they can derive any benefits from doing so.
The good news for those looking for supplemental foods that pack an intense boost of nutrients for wild birds is that chia seeds are good for the birds that eat them.
Chia seeds are 6% water, 42% carbohydrates, 16% protein, and 31% fat. Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants, calcium, and other essential minerals, and a range of B vitamins such as vitamin B2, folic acid, dietary fiber, and grit.
Wild birds will often consume chia seeds as a significant or at least fairly regular part of their diets and derive a range of health benefits by doing so as part of a varied and balanced eating regime.
Do You Need to Soak Chia Seed Before Feeding?
These types of seeds do not necessarily have to be soaked before feeding. Dry chia seeds will be a great food source for many wild birds sharing your space.
But soaking chia seeds does make the nutrients they contain more readily available, and will make this food source available for a wider number of wild birds visiting your garden.
Can Birds Eat Chia Seed Pudding?
When you soak chia seeds in water for an hour or two, they take on a pudding-like texture somewhat like a thick porridge with a gelatinous texture.
Sometimes, people will add dairy and other ingredients to this to make a chia seed pudding recipe.
Don’t feed dairy milk to wild birds if you have some leftovers of a chia seed pudding that you have made with it, as they cannot digest dairy products. However, if it contains almond milk or another vegan milk substitute, this should be fine.
Just remember that sugary things should only be given to most garden birds in moderation, as a very occasional treat. Salty foods, on the other hand, should always be completely avoided.
How to Provide Chia Seeds for Birds
If you would like to provide chia seeds for birds in your garden then you are most likely to buy these as part of commercial bird food or as part of a commercial mix. However, you might also consider growing these yourself at home for a small-scale harvest to share with the birds, if you live in a suitable area.
Planting Chia Seeds for Birds
Chia can be grown in the southwestern United States, inside the native or naturalized range for these Salvia plants. Advances in plant breeding have also led to cultivars that can be grown as far north as Arizona, and as far east as Kentucky since they flower early and seed production won’t be halted by the first frosts.
It is unlikely, unless you live in warmer, longer-summer climates, that you will be able to grow chia seeds in sufficient quantity for yourself and the birds you wish to feed. But it could be fun to experiment a little with growing this ancient crop if you live in a suitable area.
One reason to consider growing your own, where you can, is that you can cut food miles. And this will cut your carbon footprint and help you to live in a way that is as earth-centric and wildlife-friendly as possible.
Serving Chia Seeds to Birds at a Bird Table or Bird Feeder
If you are buying chia seeds to feed to birds, where you source your chia seeds is important. To do the right thing for humans, and birds, locally and globally, you should always try to source organic seeds wherever possible.
Though these are more expensive, they do not come with potentially dangerous chemical residues and will have been grown without harm to birds or other elements within an ecosystem that comes from the use of harmful synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
As mentioned above, chia seeds can be served to birds raw or soaked. In both forms, they are supplemental food that can bring great health benefits to your feathered friends.
To feed raw, unprocessed chia seeds, you can scatter these on a bird table or at another feeding station, or you can add them to a hanging bird feeder.
Just remember that in order to provide birds with optimal nutrition, a balanced and varied diet is important. For this reason, it is best to provide chia seeds alongside other raw bird food made up of a range of different seeds and other food sources at feeders.
Soaked chia seeds can also be served up in a small tray or shallow dish at a bird feeding station for a range of garden birds to enjoy.
Don’t forget that the best way to feed these beloved animals is not to buy things at all, but rather to create a natural larder with plenty of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and insects to feed a wide range of wild bird species.
So chia seed and other seeds in feeders are supplemental foods, to be added in addition to wild food sources growing in your garden, rather than as a primary food source. These amazing superfoods can help give birds the boost they need, and ensure that they can remain in optimal health, even if natural food sources in the area leave something to be desired.