Can Birds Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds -- and the flesh of the fruit from which they come -- provide perfectly safe treats for birds. Most seed-eating birds seem to enjoy the nutritious seeds. Even so, consult your veterinarian before making substantial changes to your pet's diet.
Raw pumpkin provides an excellent source of Vitamin A and a minor source of Vitamin C, making it a wholesome -- if low calorie -- addition to your birds' diet. The seeds pack a more significant caloric punch, as each ounce of kernels contains about 7 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat, yielding a hefty 151 calories in the same volume. Pumpkin seeds also contain important nutrients and minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
Preparing the Seeds
You must prepare pumpkin seeds before offering them to your birds. Begin by hollowing out the pumpkin -- or leftover jack-o'-lantern -- and scooping out the seeds and stringy tissue connected to them. Separate the seeds and place them on a flat surface, in a dry, undisturbed location until they dry. If you like, you can place the seeds on a baking sheet and insert them in an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit to accelerate the drying process. Be sure to use a baking sheet that does not have a non-stick coating, as such coatings release fumes that are toxic to birds.
Because they are popular among humans, many grocery stores carry pumpkin seeds. It is important though to purchase unprocessed seeds, which do not have any added salt, seasonings or other additives. Additionally, many pet and wild-bird stores sell pumpkin seeds or carry seed mixes that contain pumpkin seeds. Both sources are ideal, as they are usually ready to use straight from the bag and do not require any further preparation.
Seeds in Birdfeeders
Large seed-eating birds, such as northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) and rose-breasted grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) relish pumpkin seeds. Smaller species may have trouble handling the large seeds, but you can remove the husks yourself to cater to tiny fliers. Prepare or purchase pumpkin seeds for wild birds with the same level of care as you would your beloved pets. In addition to the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents will dine on the delicious seeds if they are accessible, which may or may not be desirable.