can birds eat rice

While you’re considering what type of pantry foods you can give to the wild birds that visit your backyard, you might have pondered the question as to whether birds can eat rice.

Despite a rumor that was floating around years ago, birds are definitely able to eat rice whether cooked or uncooked. In fact, rice is a good nutritious food for birds in winter because it provides them with the extra energy that they need in the colder weather and when other foods are not a readily available.


What Type Of Birds Will Eat Rice Happily?

Granivorous birds such as pigeons and pheasants are happy to feast on uncooked rice grains. After all, these birds are primarily grain eaters and rice forms a substantial part of their diet.

Other bird species will also feed on rice but they prefer it cooked to make it easier to digest.

What Nutritional Benefits Do Birds Get From Eating Rice?

Apart from containing a range of vitamins and minerals, rice also provides a good source of energy in the form of carbohydrates. These carbs are a combination of two starches, amylose and amylopecting.

Here’s a short list of essential vitamins contained in rice:

  • Vitamin B1 known as thiamin
  • Vitamin B3 known as niacin
  • Vitamin B5 known as pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B9 known as folate
  • Vitamin E

Here’s a list of important minerals that are contained in rice:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Selenium

You’ll find that the color of the rice has a greater bearing on the level of these minerals that it contains. For example, red rice is said to be higher in iron and zinc than other colored varieties. In addition, black rice seems to contain a higher level of antioxidants than other types of rice.

Aside from all of these benefits, rice also contain protein and fiber as well as a small amount of fat. Essentially, you’ll find that brown rice has the highest nutritional content as many of these nutrients are found in the husks of the grain.

What Variety Of Rice Should You Put Out For Birds?

There are many different varieties of rice available today. These include white or brown rice, pre-cooked rice, short or long grain rice and even seasoned rice. Let’s look at each variety and how it benefits your backyard bird population.

  • Brown rice. Brown rice is rice that hasn’t been hulled. It is one of the better choices to feed to birds because of its higher nutrient density.
  • White rice. Although white rice is not quite as nutritious as brown rice, it is still perfectly fine to feed to the birds. It just doesn’t provide as much nutrition as brown rice.
  • Short or long grain rice. It really doesn’t matter whether you feed birds short or long grain rice. However, smaller birds may prefer the short grain version as these grains are generally smaller.
  • Dry rice. Dry, uncooked rice is fine to put out for ground-feeding birds such as pigeons as they are easily able to digest the small, hard grains.
  • Pre-cooked rice. As long as the pre-cooked rice contains no other additives such as salt or seasonings, it’s fine to feed to your backyard visitors.

It’s also not all that important which strain of rice that you feed to the birds. Whether you have basmati, jasmine, or wild rice, the birds are going to enjoy all of these equally.

Should You Feed Raw Or Cooked Rice To The Birds?

Raw or uncooked rice is perfectly safe for birds but you’ll find that only certain species will eat this. For this reason, you might want to cook the rice first to make it more palatable for a wider range of birds.

You can even add other ingredients to the cooked rice to give the birds a more balanced diet. For example, you can mix the rice with all types of different bird seeds, nuts and chopped fruit before placing it into your backyard feeder.

You could even cook up some sticky rice, add a few other ingredients, and make rice balls that you can hang around your garden.

How To Make Your Own Puffed Rice

Puffed rice makes an interesting and nutritious treat for the birds. It will also usually last a little longer than straight cooked rice. Here’s how to make your own puffed rice:

  • Cook the rice and allow it to dry by placing it on a flat tray, a tea towel or some paper towel.
  • Spread the dry rice on a baking sheet.
  • Heat your oven to 125 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
  • Put the rice on the baking sheet into the oven for around 2 hours.
  • Take the puffed rice out of the oven and let it cool.

This is a tasty and crispy treat that your visiting birds are going to thoroughly enjoy.

Make Sure That You Feed In Limited Quantities As Part Of A Balanced Diet

As is the case with most individual foods that you feed the birds, rice should be fed in moderation and as just one ingredient of a balanced diet. Although rice is beneficial to birds, too much can limit some of the other aspects of what makes up a healthy diet.

It’s also important to purchase good quality rice because some rice can contain contaminants such as heavy metals including arsenic and mercury. This depends entirely on where the rice is grown. Rice grown in areas of high pollution are of the greatest concern. It’s also important to note that these contaminants tend to be concentrated in the husks so they would be more prevalent in brown rice rather than white rice.

Final Thoughts

You now know that rice is perfectly safe to feed your backyard bird visitors as long as you only feed it in small quantities as part of a well-balanced diet. Rice can provide a good source energy for birds, especially in winter.

The type of rice you feed to birds makes little difference except that brown rice contains more nutrients than the more processed white rice.

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