What Do Baby Birds Eat? What To Feed Them For Best Nutrition

Shirin Biswas
Jan 24, 2024 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Black Hooded Oriole bird feeding food for its chicks
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.4 Min

Feeding animals is one of the most satisfying feelings ever, but only as long as you know who eats what!

Baby birds often come up in people's gardens and make them wonder what they should feed the tiny creatures. While the birds may not want to become your pet, they might in fact appreciate some food!

Like all other animals, a bird has their own diet, which is highly subjective and dependent upon the species. While baby birds have roughly the same diets as their parents, they often like their food to be tweaked and personalized in certain ways. Keep reading to make sure that no baby birds are unfed on your watch!

If you enjoy this article, why not also check out what do pigs like and what do iguanas eat here at Kidadl!

How To Make Baby Bird Food

If you happen to have found some baby bird or maybe a fledgling or two and are wondering how you could take care of the creature, the first thing to consider is that while the diet of adult birds and baby birds is essentially the same, these chicks can hardly handle the same amount or texture of nutrition as their parents. Hence, special care must be taken when it comes to choosing the right foods for babies. It can be quite confusing to understand what food to make to feed the bird while it is so young. However, if you have a pet cat or dog at home, their foods may come in handy at such an hour. Cat food and wet dog food make excellent, nutrient-rich food for a young bird. The next time you find a baby bird alone and want to feed it, puppy food should be a great choice to consider.

It is also important to make sure that the food that you give to a fledgling or nestling is never dry or coarse. These babies would run the risk of choking on such food items since parent birds only feed their chicks some regurgitated, soft food till they are of considerable age and can chew on large chunks of food. There are also certain food items such as bread, dairy products, salty or spicy food, milk, and meat, which should be avoided completely since the bird's size and its dietary requirements would not support the digestion and proper synthesis.

In case the parents are nowhere to be found and you need to feed a baby bird as an emergency method, consider some dog or cat food, or some boiled eggs. It is advised by veterinarians for a baby bird to eat high protein foods, and hence, a small portion of a boiled egg should be fed to the young one if it seems to be hungry and in need of some care. It is also important to never force a nestling or fledgling to eat since the diet of these young birds is only best understood by their parents.

If you have access to some dried worms or insects, feel free to mix them with the dog food. This will also enable the young bird to feel safe as if it were near its parents. Although, make sure that the worms and insects that you are feeding this small animal are tiny and wet. Dry insects can be a choking hazard. The best way of making some high-protein food for baby birds is to mix puppy food and worms and make a mush-like consistency of the mixture. This ensures that the young one is reminded of the spongy and soft food that its parents would treat it to.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how strongly you feel for the birds, make sure to not overfeed parent birds during the breeding season. This attracts attention from predators towards the nest and puts the entire bird family in danger. It would also not be a great idea to feed baby birds directly at their nest since they are only supposed to be living on the food brought by their parents at such an early age. It therefore would be best to only ensure that the parent birds are well-fed so that they can subsequently feed their young.

Suitable Food For Baby Birds

Baby birds eat what adult birds do, however, the consistency that the two prefer and are most suited to is not the same. Adult birds, over time and age, eventually learn to adapt to different types of food. The chicks of vegetarian parents would be born to be vegetarian as well, however, the seeds and nuts that the birds eat while they are young would be regurgitated by their parents. This ensures that the baby birds get sufficient nutrition while not running a risk of getting choked.

It might be surprising for most people but the food that your pet dog or cat would eat is actually the best for a baby bird to feed on as well. Puppy food contains heaps of nutrients such as proteins and since chicks require the most amount of protein while they are growing up, they will always thank you for giving them some extra food and care. It is common knowledge that birds eat insects and worms. In fact, you may have also seen parent birds bring worms to their nest in order to feed the young. Although, it is advised that no food is given directly to the nest since it creates two hazards for the family of new nestlings. Not only is the food likely to alert predators of their prey being around, but even the baby birds may suffer greatly. When young, much like in the case of human babies who eat soft, mushy food, baby birds also only like to feed on spongy foods.

Chick eating rice

What Not To Feed Baby Birds

Wildlife and the many species of animals and birds that live within are very interesting in the way that each animal has its own preferences and habits. If you find a baby bird alone on the ground and suspect that it has separated from its family while learning to fly, feeding the wild bird may seem like the best thing to do, but on quite the contrary, it may not be so. Wild birds have their own diet and it can be quite detrimental to a baby bird's life if you feed it foods such as milk, bread, or any such human foods. Adult birds and their babies have almost the same diet, although, the texture of food that they prefer and the intervals in which they would require to be fed is largely subjective.

There are some food items that should be avoided completely during an act of bird feeding. One of the most useful tips includes making sure that the nestling or fledgling is only fed as an emergency measure. It is not commonly known that it is in fact illegal to handle wild birds. Hence, you should only extend a helping hand and pick a baby bird from the ground if you are absolutely sure that it cannot fly or that its parents are not around. Once these safety measures are taken into consideration and you still feel like the creature might need help, make sure that you don't grab the first food items that you find on the kitchen counter. Baby birds are always to be kept away from milk and other dairy products since their digestive system is hardly equipped to be digesting such alien chemicals. It may seem obvious to you that baby birds would feed on the same birdseed that you put in the feeder. However, that is complete folly. A baby bird can easily choke on seeds if they haven't been chewed on and then regurgitated by their parents.

Baby birds should also be kept away from kitchen scraps and refuses. While their parents eat such scraps rather happily, it may actually harm the tiny baby instead of providing nutrition. Baby birds shouldn't be given any water either since they are mostly unaware of the concept of drinking water till a later age.

The meat that adult birds and the baby's parents eat often is no good for the tiny one either. Their digestive processes start to develop way after feathers develop, and hence, even if it is a fledgling that you have stumbled upon on the ground, no meat products would be required in making sure that the stipulated protein intake is maintained.

How To Feed A Baby Bird

It may take hours to convince a baby bird that you are the bird's friend and wouldn't hurt it. At the same time, the baby bird could be spending hours eating at your house before it decides to walk or fly away. The most useful tricks and tips that come into play in making sure that you feed a baby bird the right food and support is to first and foremost gain its trust.

It is always useful to have the room temperature warm so that the chick feels cozy and comfortable. A baby bird is also likely to have its own appetite depending on the species that you have come across. Hence, it would be best to not force any food on the wildlife creature. However, if your little friend is keen on eating, make sure that you put some food such as a puppy meal in a clean dish and wait for the baby bird to start eating on its own. A friendly nudge in the direction of the bowl wouldn't hurt, but make sure to not hurt any feathers or be too persuasive. If your new friend seems to want to be around for a while, make it a small bed that would resemble its nest and makes sure that there is enough food to satisfy its diet!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do baby birds eat, then why not take a look at what do insects eat, or what do kangaroos eat?

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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