Can Birds Eat Cheese? [The Surprising Answer You Need to Know]

birds eat cheese

We know birds love nuts, seeds, nectar, tree sap, worms, fruit, and insects to help them through the day, but can birds eat cheese?

Birds aren’t usually cheese lovers, but some species will eat cheese as part of their diet. Generally, birds that eat cheese are mostly seed-eating birds.

Do you own pet birds or want to feed other birds in your backyard but are unsure whether they can safely eat cheese?  Read on to find out the surprising truth!

Can Birds Eat Cheese?

The answer is yes, some birds can eat cheese. Birds can eat small quantities of rigid, fermented cheeses, especially those low in lactose.

can birds eat cheese

Note that this should be a tiny part of their diet, not the main daily diet.

There are some risks associated with feeding them too much cheese. Their gut doesn’t have the enzymes necessary for breaking it down, which could lead to digestion problems.

Are Cheese Products Good for Birds?

Cheese is not a recommended food for birds because it contains high fat, salt, and protein levels. 

Cheese is primarily made of milk, which contains lactose, a sugar that can be difficult for birds to digest. Even if the cheese is aged, the lactose remains. 

These elements can cause health problems for birds and lead to kidney disease, severe stomach upsets, or even worse.

Is Homemade Cheese Suitable for Birds?

Homemade cheese is usually made from milk and cream, but homemade cheese can be safe for birds. 

As a general rule of thumb, homemade cheese should be safe for birds if it contains less than 1% lactose and fat, meaning all dairy products are low-fat or use non-dairy products. 
You can use lactose-free alternatives to dairy cheese that might be good for birds.

Types of Cheeses That Aren’t Safe for Birds

While there are safe cheeses for birds, several harmful varieties should be avoided at all costs! Below are the types of cheese you should never feed to any bird species.

cheese isn't safe for birds

Cream Cheese

Birds can’t consume cream cheese, soft cheese, or spreadable cheese like feta, quark, burrata, and mascarpone. 

It’s a high-lactose cheese, which makes it impossible for birds to digest.

Cream cheese also has artificial flavors, such as chive, garlic, onion, or shallots, which are known to harm birds.

Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella cheese isn’t safe for birds since it contains lactose which can cause digestive problems and lead to malnutrition.

Mozzarella has lactose levels similar to camembert and cottage, two kinds of cheese that birds shouldn’t consume.

Shaker Parmesan

The natural solid parmesan cheese is generally safe for birds, which makes sense to think that the shaker option might also be safe. 

However, shaker parmesan cheese can be hazardous to birds. It contains some artificial additives, including salt, which can be toxic to birds.

Ingestion of large amounts of salt can cause electrolyte abnormalities, respiratory distress, and even death in birds.

Shaker parmesan cheese also has a lot of dairy content, which can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems for your bird.

If you want to feed your bird some parmesan cheese in ground form, buy the original cheese in solid form (which is safe for birds) and use a cheese grater to scour it yourself.

Other Types of Cheese to Avoid

You should never feed your birds two types of cheese: Dairy and moldy grubs. 

While dairy products might not seem like a problem for birds, they contain lactose, which can be problematic for birds. 

Ingesting too much dairy can lead to intestinal distress, disrupting a bird’s ability to absorb nutrients from other foods.

As for moldy cheese, it contains harmful bacteria that can cause illness and even death in your feathered friends.

Gouda cheeses are also off-limits because they contain high milk protein casein levels that block calcium absorption in small animals like birds.

What Cheese is Best for Birds?

The best type of cheese will depend on the type of bird. Some birds, like finches, can eat high-fat cheeses, while other types of birds should stick to low-fat cheeses.

Less sensitive birds should consume high-fat cheese with lower protein levels, while more sensitive birds need lower-fat cheese with higher protein levels.

If you want your bird to eat something with cheese, find a substitute low-lactose cheese, such as Provolone, Swiss, Cheddar,  and Parmesan.

what cheese is best for birds

However, many other types of cheeses are safe for birds; the key is knowing what ingredients these foods contain.

Can Parrots Eat Cheese?

Cheese isn’t a good food choice for parrots, despite its delicious flavor and creamy texture. The high amount of lactose can cause digestive problems for your parrots. 

These can include diarrhea, gas, bloating, and compulsive yawning. However, these symptoms will only occur if your bird eats a large amount of cheese in one sitting.

Generally, lactose-intolerant birds like parrots can’t break down dairy, so even small amounts should be avoided.

Other Kinds of Birds Able to Eat Cheese

Some common birds that consume cheese include but aren’t limited to robins, blackbirds, song thrushes, and dunnocks. They like eating hardened bits of cheese. 

birds able to eat cheese

Wrens will also eat it if you place it under hedgerows and other areas in your yard where they feed.
Pigeons and gulls can also consume cheese. Pigeons are known to eat peanuts covered in Velveeta (cheese), so they’ll gladly grub the cheese in your backyard bird feeder.

How Much Cheese Should You Give Your Bird?

Several factors determine what’s safe and what’s not, including your bird’s size and weight and other allergies they may have. 

Some birds do very well with small amounts of cheese as part of their regular diet; others experience digestive issues or allergic reactions. 

Pay attention to your bird’s needs and make adjustments accordingly.

Start slowly with 1-2 tiny pieces of cheese daily, then monitor your bird’s response. If you notice any change in behavior or health, stop feeding them with cheese immediately.

Is Cheese a Good Substitute for Bird Seed Snacks?

Although cheese is often a favorite among humans, there’s no scientific evidence that birds like it. 

Many avian species are lactose-intolerant and can only digest small quantities of dairy products, not as a portion of regular food. 

While you might want to give your parrot or cockatiel a sliver of cheddar to snack on during dinner or substitute it for the bird’s daily diet, never use cheese as the main meal.

What Happens if a Bird Eats Cheese?

Many birds are lactose intolerant, and a diet high in cheese can cause stomach aches, indigestion, flatulence, and even death

This isn’t just unpleasant for your feathered friend but can also lead to other health problems, including diarrhea and vomiting. 

Smaller birds like finches, cardinals, and parakeets are susceptible to large amounts of cheese because they have smaller stomachs.

However, if a bird eats the correct type of cheese (but not in excess), it’ll get all the advantages of cheese to its body and overall health.

Benefits of Cheese to Birds

Generally, cheese is high in protein, minerals, and vitamins. It’s a good source of protein for birds and helps balance their diet.
By feeding birds cheese, they can get the essential protein they require to stay healthy and strong. This will help them walk, hop, or fly for a long time without getting tired.

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