Can Birds Eat Popcorn Kernels? [Popped vs Unpopped!]

can birds eat popcorn kernels

Like most of us, you’re probably constantly on the lookout on what you can add to your backyard feeders to give the birds plenty of variety and nutrition. A common question that many people ask is whether birds can actually eat popcorn kernels.

Many types of birds can eat popcorn kernels. It’s also fine to feed birds popcorn that has been popped. Whether unpopped or popped, popcorn is full of fibre and low in sugar. Therefore, it’s a nutritious treat that you can offer to your visiting birds. You’ll even find that a lot of commercial mixes contain some popcorn kernels in addition to other seeds and grains.

Let’s look at the benefits of feeding popcorn to visiting birds.

Unpopped Popcorn Or Kernels

Many birds will enjoy the challenge of consuming popcorn kernels that have not been popped. These kernels are especially popular with birds that have strong beaks such as jays, woodpeckers and pigeons.

For smaller birds, however, the kernels may be a little too hard. You can make it easier for these birds by soaking the kernels in some water until they start to soften.

Popped Popcorn

It’s also perfectly safe to feed popped popcorn to your backyard birds. However, you must ensure that you don’t add any salt, flavorings, oil or butter to the popcorn. If you want to pop some corn for the local birds, do so in an air popper instead.

You’ll find that even after the corn is popped, it still contains the same amount of nutrients than popcorn kernels that have not been popped.

Another important thing to remember is to never give birds microwave popcorn. This type of popcorn is loaded with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, artificial additives, salt and butter and is quite unhealthy for the birds.

Only Feed Popcorn As A Treat

Popcorn, whether popped or unpopped, should not make up the entire diet for your backyard birds. It should only be fed as a treat as birds need a variety of different foods to ensure that they get adequate nutrition.

Although popcorn does contain plenty of fibre, iron and antioxidants, it does not contain all the nutritional requirements that birds need. Therefore, either incorporate it into your mix of seeds, grains, fruits and berries or just put it out occasionally to provide the birds with a little treat.

Why Not Try Making Popcorn Balls As A Treat For The Birds

To add interest to the birds’ diets and also some enjoyment to your bird watching, why not consider making some popcorn balls that you can hang on tree branches. It’s easy and fun.

You can also add other things such as dried fruit and seeds to the mix to make the popcorn balls even more nutritious.

Here’s the recipe for making popcorn balls:


  • a few cups (7-8) of plain popcorn that you’ve popped in an air popper (don’t add anything else such as salt, butter or oil at this stage)
  • a cup or so of birdseed and dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, dried apricots or cherries)
  • around 4 tablespoons of unsalted peanut butter (make sure that the peanut butter has no other additives such as sugar or preservatives).
  • Some cooking spray (this is for spraying on your hands only so that the mixture won’t stick when you’re forming the balls).


  • Firstly, pop the plain popcorn in an air popper.
  • Warm the peanut butter a little to make it easier to mix.
  • Combine the popcorn with the peanut butter in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add any other ingredients such as the birdseed and the dried fruit and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  • Allow the mixture to cool down a little to make it easier to form the balls.
  • Spray some cooking spray on your hands and then form the mixture into balls that are about the size of a tennis ball. Make sure that you press well around the balls so that all the seeds, the popcorn and the dried fruit stick together.
  • Wrap some twine around each ball and then tie each ball to a tree branch in your backyard.
  • If you’ve made an oversupply of popcorn balls, you can store the remainder in an airtight container for around three to four days. Make sure that you store your airtight container in a cool and dry spot.
  • This recipe will make around 12 popcorn balls.

Once you’ve hung your popcorn balls up outside, take a seat and watch the fun as the birds enjoy the special treat that you’ve made for them.

More About The Nutritional Benefits Of Popcorn For Birds

As we’ve mentioned, popcorn does offer some nutritional benefits for your backyard birds. These include:

  • Iron that helps to balance the oxygen levels in the bloodstream and protects the birds from developing anemia.
  • Fiber that contributes to a healthy digestive system.
  • Carbohydrates for energy.
  • Calcium for healthy bones and a healthy reproductive system.

Final Thoughts

Popcorn kernels are a nutritious treat that you can feed to your backyard birds. For smaller birds, you might want to soak or boil the kernels for a few minutes to soften them. This makes it easier for the birds to be able to consume the kernels that may be too hard otherwise.

You can also feed popped popcorn to the birds that visit your feeders. However, you should ensure that this is natural plain popcorn that has not had anything added to it. It’s best to pop the corn using an air popper. This avoids having to use oil which is not really all that good for the birds.

Remember, to never feed your backyard birds microwave popcorn either. This type of popcorn has lots of other things added to it that are not healthy for the birds.

And, if you want to have some fun and make some extra special treats for the birds, you can make them some popcorn balls with our easy recipe. You can then hang these outside and watch the birds having some fun.

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