Why can't birds eat bread?

People who love animals, old people and small children just love to feed birds. Throwing a bit of bread at the ducks in the park, laying hard breadcrumbs on the birds in the garden - this is considered a survival aid, especially in winter. However, this is not good for the birds, in the park for different reasons than in the garden.

Birds don't choke on bread

Every now and then you hear that ducks and other birds would choke on the hard pieces of bread because they couldn't chop them up with their beak. With really hard pieces of bread it may be really difficult for the animals, but they don't take anything in their beak that they can't swallow. So you will most certainly not suffocate.

This is especially true of ducks and other waterfowl. If your food is too hard for you, just dip it in the water until it is soft enough to eat. Nevertheless, in many communities it is forbidden to feed the birds in the park: the animals find a rich natural food supply and can look after themselves. If they are also fed with toast or other baked goods, first of all the remains of the baked goods will collect in the water and eventually let it tip over. Second, the animals are naturally not used to foods that are so high in carbohydrates that they will become obese over time. This is also undesirable, which is why a municipal feeding ban should be strictly observed.

The salt is problematic

Many birds are grateful for a feeding place in the garden and like to be pampered, especially in winter. They like fruits, grains, cereals, and seeds trapped in fat. What they eat when it is not good for them: bread. There is actually no more salt-free baked bread in Germany today. Salt is just as harmful to animals as pure fats (butter, lard or margarine) and pure white flour products. The animals need the fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that grain feed has, not least thanks to the shells and husks it contains. A toast provides quick energy, but it also contains a lot of salt and actually only short-chain carbohydrates that are quickly converted. That is not good for the animals. The following are also bad for the birds:
  • Pretzel Sticks
  • crisps
  • pretzels
  • sausage
  • ham
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • frozen feed
And besides the salt, there is another reason not to feed the birds with bread. The bread is dry and swells in the bird's stomach, where it removes moisture from the animals. But since the stomach is already full with the swollen bread, the bird will not drink - this is harmful to the health of the animals.

The right food for every species of bird

The different birds native to Germany eat very different things. While blackbirds like to pull worms, maggots and small insects out of the ground in summer, they also like to eat grain feed in winter. This also applies to tits. And where the starlings do not fly south in autumn, they also accept grain feed in winter. Normal bird feed or chicken feed is well suited for winter feeding. The animals like to eat the bran used in the mixes for chickens as much as:
  • millet
  • rice
  • wheat
  • barley
  • Corn
Tits can be tempted well with sunflower seeds. And they especially like it when the kernels are glued together in a dumpling or a ring of sebum. Ready-to-use tit dumplings from specialist retailers often contain other seeds and grains, sometimes even nuts, in addition to sunflower seeds. The animals eat that too. Finches and sparrows often share the grain shell with the tits, because these animals also like to eat grain and seeds.

Soft food for everyone else

Robins, dunnock, blackbirds and other birds also overwinter in Germany. But they don't like to eat hard grains that much. These birds can be tempted with raisins, oatmeal, sliced ​​apple pieces, and citrus fruits. These birds also accept bran. They should not receive bread for the reasons already mentioned above.

If fresh fruit is fed, it is important to ensure that it does not freeze. When temperatures drop below freezing point, the high water content in fresh fruit causes ice crystals to form. Such food is bad for the birds. When it is so cold, the pieces of food should really only be brought outside when the birds are eating (usually early in the morning and in the evening). Only a small amount of food should be left outside so that the birds can eat the fruit immediately.

Set up the feeding station safely

Food bowls on the floor attract rats. This scares the birds and leads to hygienic problems. In addition, birds do not like to eat on the ground, where they are easy prey for cats. The place for winter feeding should therefore be carefully selected. Spreading, not too high branches on trees are good for laying out forage. But also special bird feeders and feeders can be hung in the trees, the birds are usually happy to accept these feeding places. Individual birdhouses, on the other hand, should be constructed in such a way that they offer protection from both cats and birds of prey and cannot be climbed by mice or rats.

The feeding station should be kept clean. If the food gets wet, it will mold and rot at some point. This is extremely unhealthy for the birds and should therefore be avoided. A rain cover or a feed container that is watertight from above and the sides are therefore useful. If the feed has gotten wet anyway, it must be replaced.
Watering and bird bathing are also important in winter

Grain feed in particular is very dry. So the birds need some water in order to maintain their fluid balance. Birds also like to bathe in winter. A shallow clay bowl with some (warmed) water that is refilled several times a day is therefore a good idea. The birds cannot do anything with a frozen water point, so the bird bath should definitely be kept free of ice. It is usually sufficient to put the bowl out with lukewarm water in the morning when the temperatures are already above freezing point and to bring the bowl back into the house in the afternoon before the lower temperatures freeze the water at night.

Conflicting opinions on winter feeding

In general, winter feeding is not advised against, but there are still loud voices that speak out against it. Winter feeding does not help any endangered songbird species, and it will save few animals from starvation either. Because the bird species that overwinter in Germany usually find enough food here. And the songbirds, which actually migrate to the south and are hunted there, only do not stay in Germany because of the winter feeding (which could possibly save their lives and stabilize the populations). For animal welfare reasons or even to save species, feeding is therefore not necessary.

But it doesn't do any harm either. The 20 species of birds in Germany, which are addressed by the rich food supply, do not multiply more simply because they are supplied with food in winter. And they don't displace any other species or the like. The animals do not become too lazy to look for their own food (because the feeding in the garden is simply too unreliable from a bird's point of view), so that the natural balance is not disturbed by the well-intentioned gifts.

But there is one important reason that speaks for a feeding place in the garden or on the balcony: environmental education. Children who can observe animals at feeding places develop a completely different understanding of these creatures and show them respect. Once interest has been aroused, the relationships between habitats and native animal species are perceived and understood in a completely different way. Apart from that, it is of course just fun to watch the feathered and sometimes very colorful aerial acrobats at their meal. Sparrows in particular do wonderful tricks when they want to prevail against the competition at the feeding place!

And with this one attracts somewhat more unusual guests into the garden:
  • Mealworms (for blackbirds and goldfinches)
  • whole hazelnuts and acorns (for the jay)
  • whole peanuts and corn kernels (magpie, jay, goldfinch)
  • chopped nuts, poppy and hemp seeds (greenfinch)
  • greased peanuts (for the green woodpecker)
It is very attractive when some types of food hang down from high branches on a long cord. Because woodpeckers, various grain-eaters and even sometimes titmice can run down the thin ropes upside down to get the food.

Better to feed only in winter

For environmental educational reasons, one might argue that feeding all year round would not do any harm. This is correct so far, but it has a catch: If the temperatures rise, it is more difficult to keep the feeding places hygienically clean. The birds can infect each other very quickly with all kinds of diseases, and the food cannot be kept clean on warm, humid days.