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What Do Baby Birds Eat (In the Wild & In Captivity)

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baby birds in their nest

Baby birds should stick with their parents until they are old enough to eat on their own. But sometimes, babies lose their parents for some reason and humans must intervene. Sometimes, humans want to offer a little nutritional support to the babies that their pet birds are caring for. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself responsible for feeding a baby bird, and the first thing that you must do is figure out what the baby bird should be eating. So, what do baby birds eat? How should baby birds be fed? What kinds of foods should baby birds avoid? Let’s explore these topics and more here.

Disclaimer: We do not recommend taking care of and feeding baby birds found in the wild. It is important to find a rescue center or qualified veterinarian to care for the bird whenever possible.

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What Do Baby Birds Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, baby birds rely on their parents to regurgitate food into their mouths. The food is already crushed up, so the baby can just swallow it and get the nutrition that it has to offer. A typical meal for a baby bird in the wild is a mealworm. Sometimes their parents will feed them tiny pieces of fruit and grasses.

Most baby birds are ready to start exploring a little and eating on their own by about 5 weeks of age, but this is not a hard-set rule. Some baby birds start eating on their own a little earlier, while it can take others several weeks more.

Image Credit: blende12, Pixabay

What Can Baby Birds Eat in Captivity?

Unfortunately, when baby birds do not have parents to feed them, we must step in and do the feeding for them. Luckily, there are several foods that you may already have in your home that could be used as baby bird food. Here are the most nutritious and popular options to consider:

  • Dog or cat food
  • Dog biscuit treats
  • Liver
  • Peanut butter

It is important to make sure that whatever food you offer to a baby bird is moistened and soft. If using dog or cat kibble, you should allow the kibble to rest in a bowl of water until it becomes mushy. The same goes for biscuit treats. A syringe or similar item should be used to slowly administer the food into the baby bird’s mouth.

baby lovebirds eating
Image Credit: ploypemuk, Shutterstock

How Often Should Baby Birds Eat?

Depending on the age and species of the animal, a baby bird may require nourishment offerings every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day. This is a huge responsibility that requires patience and plenty of free time. Baby birds tend to hold their bills open and tweet incessantly when they are hungry and ready for food.

If you find a baby bird in your yard or while on a walk or hike that has been abandoned by its parents, the best idea is to find a veterinarian or reputable bird rescue organization in your area that can take care of it. They will have the time, resources, tools, and proper foods that are necessary to ensure that a baby bird pulls through and grows to be a healthy adult.

What Foods Should Baby Birds Avoid?

If you do decide to feed a baby bird yourself, there are a few different food products that you will want to avoid feeding it. Some of these foods are toxic to baby birds, while others offer little to no nutrition. Still, others can be a choking hazard. Here is what to avoid at all costs:

If you are unsure whether to feed a specific food to a baby bird, it is best to avoid that food altogether. Stick to the shortlist of safe foods unless a veterinarian or bird expert tells you otherwise.

Related Read: What Do Birds Eat? What Can I Feed Wild Birds?

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Final Thoughts

Feeding a baby bird is hard work, stressful, and time-consuming. Therefore, you should not try to do it unless the only other choice is to leave the bird to die. Resist offering treats to baby birds that your pet birds are raising on their own. However, offering up a tiny bit of food occasionally as a treat is fine.

You might also be interested in: Do Hummingbirds Eat Bugs and Insects? What You Need To Know!

Featured Image Credit: Savanevich Viktar, Shutterstock

About the Author Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Since 2000, Rachael has been a freelance writer, and has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens, so it's no surprise that animals happen to be her favorite topic to write about!