Birds do not eat pine cones, but some birds eat the seeds within pine cones. Seeds contained within pine cones offer excellent nutritional sustenance for most birds. They are high in Vitamin K, phosphorus, magnesium, protein, and contain antioxidants that oxidize agents in the blood.
What You'll Learn
A fair number of birds have a diet that includes a healthy amount of seeds. In the case of pine cones, the seeds are about the only thing that a bird can eat.
Pine cones seeds aren’t exactly easy to extract unless they have already fallen off the tree. Even still, this could mean they have already opened and released a good portion of their seeds.
Because the seed is the only viable edible portion does not mean the pine cone is useless to birds. Just because birds do not eat the pine cones themselves, they can still offer a multitude of utilities, including acting as a makeshift bird feeder.
Let’s see what knowledge this article can “seed” about using pine cones and their seeds as a part of bird-feeding habits.
Pine Cone Seeds Make Excellent Food For Birds
First, let’s discuss what is edible about the pine cone – its seeds.
Pine cone seeds are incredibly nutritious for birds and can be an important staple in a bird’s diet. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, which include:
- Vitamin K, which is great for the immune system
- Phosphorus for bone health
- Magnesium for muscle coordination and neurological brain health
- Antioxidants that remove damaging oxidizing agents in the blood
All these wonderful nutrients help regulate the immune system and birds’ health. As wonderful as this may be, pine cones require some work to extract the seeds.
In nature, many birds have beaks designed to extract seeds. That’s great for them, but what if you would like to procure these seeds for your pet birds? Well, that takes a bit of work.
You want to be particular in the pine cones you select. A green cone will have underdeveloped seeds, while an open brown cone will likely already have released many of its seeds.
However, a brown closed cone will have properly developed seeds and will still contain all the seeds within. Once you have collected closed brown cones, you need to dry them, which will slowly trigger the cones to open, revealing the seeds. You can dry them on a rack or cloth in the sun or in a heated room.
Once dry, you can shake out the majority of the seeds. You can then extract the rest with your fingers. Be sure to store the seeds in a cool, dry place.
You can add them to daily feedings for your pet birds, adding a nice boost of nutrition to their diet. After extracting the seeds, don’t be so quick to throw out the pine cones. Set those aside as we have other uses for them!
Utility of Pine Cones Beyond Food
You may feel bad for all those birds out in the wild that you have deprived the precious pine seeds from when you gathered them for your own pet birds.
Don’t fret! You can still give back to the greater bird community by turning those empty pine cones into bird feeders.
Smearing a good bit of peanut butter on an emptied pine cone and giving it a roll in some pine or other assorted nuts, you now have a feast for the outdoor birds.
Simply hang the slathered pine cone outside and watch as the woodland birds flock to the hanging haven of treats!
There is one catch to this… you may want to sanitize the pine cone first. We will cover the procedure to sanitize later in the article.
Pine cones can also serve another function for birds related to their beaks. Birds must maintain their beaks and keep them trim. One of the best ways to do this is chewing woody objects.
A pine cone is a perfect toy for a pet bird to chew on to maintain its beak health. Birds in the wild have plenty of access to wood to chew and peck to maintain a manicured beak. However, pet birds are often cut off or have very limited access to materials that they can use to achieve the same level of beak care.
Enter the pine cone. They have a perfect woody texture and are a perfect size to fit into a birdcage. They have tons of extended sections that are the perfect size for a beak to chew and grind against to help keep it trim and manicured.
However, as with a bird feeder, you will want to sanitize it, especially since you will use it in this fashion for your pet.
How to Sanitize a Pine Cone For Birds
Sanitizing a pine cone is fairly straightforward. It will help eliminate mold and bacteria and ensure the safety of your pet birds that use them for chewing or those found in the wild that might use the bird feeder you make out of the cone.
First, get an avian-safe soap, preferably one that is anti-bacterial. Dawn is considered safe.
Soak the pine cone in water with the soap and add a bit of distilled vinegar, with roughly equal parts distilled water. Allow it to soak. You could even do some light scrubbing with a toothbrush to get the surfaces extra clean.
Rinse the pine cone thoroughly and then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 390 degrees. Voila! You now have a sanitized pine cone ready to be chewed as a toy or hung up for a bird feeder.
Pine Cones and Their Seeds Serve a Purpose For Birds
So there you have it. While birds do not eat pine cones themselves, the seeds provide a substantial amount of nutrition. Even though it may take some effort to extract and collect the seeds, one can find valuable uses for the discarded pine cone in the form of a bird feeder or as a chew toy.
Both uses provide a wonderful service to birds in the name of food. Just be sure to properly sanitize the cones before utilizing them for such purposes. Your pet birds and those outdoors will thank you for it!
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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.