Steel-cut oats can be safely fed to wild birds. Wild birds generally do not eat oats as a staple of their diet, but will eat them when necessary. Steel-cut oats are the closest thing to the wild grains birds would feed on.
What You'll Learn
Diet Of A Wild Bird
As is well known to most bird owners, seeds, nuts, and insects are popular foods for wild birds to consume. This is true whether birds find them in nature or are provided by bird enthusiasts.
Like any wild animal, birds will eat seasonally. This means they predominantly go after spiders and insects in the summer when the population is plentiful.
These living things are very nutritious but aren’t always available, especially for birds who do not migrate. They must find other food sources in the winter to center their diet around.
This brings us to the more plant-based part of a bird’s diet. What used to be the supplementary portion has now become the foundation.
Seeds, nuts, berries, and grains are what birds will favor as the weather gets colder and the insects die off.
While most people think of seeds and grains as different things, this is not necessarily the case! The flour we use for cooking is essentially ground seeds of the wheat plant, and the same can be said for most other grains.
Not that the birds don’t favor one type over the other. Birds with bigger beaks prefer to go after large seeds, like sunflower seeds. Smaller birds with little beaks will be perfect customers for smaller grains such as steel-cut oats.
In fact, the size and shape of steel-cut oats are much closer to a grain found in the wild than other varieties of oats.
Steel Cut Oats VS. Other Varieties
Our highly processed food industry always favors efficiency over anything else. Most of us probably grew up with some form of instant oatmeal.
Maybe you were like me and went as far as eating the little packets of oats with flavoring and “dinosaur eggs” inside. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
This is NOT what you will feed wild birds. You would be surprised to know how many people are unfamiliar with steel-cut oats because of how labor-intensive the cooking process is. While it is safe to feed your birds rolled oats or quick oats, steel-cut is likely the better option.
Other types of oats are refined and altered so they cook quicker, which robs the oat of some of its nutrients in the process.
Steel-cut oats are far less processed. They get their name from taking the whole oat and chopping it into smaller pieces. When this is done, they look similar to grains of uncooked rice. This makes them the perfect size for small and large birds to enjoy as a meal!
Benefits Of Steel Cut Oats For Wild Birds
Just like humans need to be mindful of what they consume, you should also be purposeful about what you feed birds.
Mother nature has a reason for everything she does, including the seasonal diet of the birds. This is why steel-cut oats can be so beneficial to birds, especially in the winter months when other types of food are more scarce.
Unlike other forms of seeds, which are higher in fat, grains boast a low-fat profile with a significant source of carbohydrates. This is very important in the colder months when birds need energy not only to continue their daily activities, but also to produce body heat as well.
Have you ever shivered uncontrollably from frigid temperatures? If you have, you’re probably exhausted once you warm back up. This same thing can happen to birds, so having a good helping of grain readily available in the colder months allows the birds to consume easy calories to combat this.
Not only are the grains an excellent source of carbohydrates, but they are also rich in many nutrients that are important for the bird’s health.
They have trace amounts of virtually every micronutrient that you can think of and large amounts of fiber. Fiber is an important part of the human diet and is just as useful for the digestive health of birds!
Protein can not be forgotten, and while most of the protein is gathered from insects in the summer, this is no longer an option in the winter. Steel-cut oats to the rescue again! These grains will provide the birds with the protein they need to maintain muscle throughout the winter.
Raw or Cooked?
We should all be familiar with the texture of oats before and after cooking. Have you ever eaten a bowl of oatmeal and let it sit out? The oatmeal will harden and make it impossible to clean.
Believe it or not, this can be very dangerous for birds! Imagine you boil some steel-cut oats and set out a nice bowl of oatmeal for your birds to snack on. When the birds eat the oatmeal, the sticky texture can coat their beak. Birds don’t have a way of cleaning this off, and the oatmeal can actually work like cement and seal their beaks shut! For this reason, you should never steam or boil your oats before leaving them out for the birds.
Grains are not cooked in the wild, so why should you bother? Steel-cut oats are the perfect size for any bird to snack on, and they like them just the way they are.
The best way to leave these oats out is to scatter them across the ground or on the railing of your deck. This encourages the birds to follow a more natural eating habit. They are also great for feeders if that’s what you prefer. Avoid cooking these oats and you can be sure to have happy and healthy birds. Steel-cut oats are a cheap and healthy option, and the birds will love them!
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.