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Can Birdseed Go Bad?

How to Tell If Birdseed Is Spoiled


Spoiled Rye

Bird seed can grow mold that is dangerous to birds.


Savvy birders often save money on birdseed by buying in bulk, but bird appetites can vary and the seed is not always eaten quickly. Over time, birdseed can become less appealing to the birds, but does birdseed go bad? Yes, it can, and birders who understand the different ways birdseed can spoil can be better prepared to offer their backyard birds healthy, nutritious food.

Ways Birdseed Goes Bad

Birds may not be picky eaters, but spoiled birdseed can be unhealthy and unappetizing. To check for bad birdseed, watch for…

  • Clumps: Birdseed that has gotten wet or otherwise spoiled may start to form stiff, firm clumps. Clumps that break apart easily are nothing to be concerned about, but strong clumps indicate spoiled seed and may clog feeder ports.

  • Insects: Insects such as moths, worms, spiders and earwigs can infest birdseed. Look for live or dead insects, cocoons, webs and other indications of insect activity.

  • Mold: Mold and mildew can be fatal to birds, and moldy seed can show mold or fungus growth, discoloration or a musty smell.

  • Sprouts: Many types of birdseed will germinate under the right circumstances. Seeds that are swollen, split or actively growing shoots or roots are spoiled.

  • Smell: Bad seed can sometimes be detected by a simple smell. Many seeds have high oil contents, and when that oil goes bad it will generate a sharp, rancid smell. Moldy and musty odors also indicate spoiled birdseed.

  • Rodents: An infestation of rodents – mice, rats, etc. – can spoil seed through contaminants such as urine or feces. Checking for chewed containers, rodent tracks or visible feces can indicate contaminated seed.

  • Aging: Very old birdseed loses its nutritional value. While it may not show blatant signs of being spoiled, seed that is dull, dusty or dried out is less healthy for the birds and should be discarded if possible.

Keep Birdseed From Spoiling

Recognizing spoiled birdseed can help keep bad seed from reaching bird feeders, but it is better if backyard birders take steps to keep the seed from spoiling at all. This will ensure that the seed is always suitable for the birds to eat, and it will save money by not needing to replace uneaten seed. To keep seed from spoiling…

  • Store birdseed properly in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.
  • Avoid buying more birdseed than can be used in a few weeks.
  • Only fill feeders with enough seed for 2-3 days so it won't spoil in open feeders.
  • Use oldest seeds first and rotate seed stocks regularly.
  • Keep feeders clean and free of seed debris that can spoil over time.

By understanding how to check for spoiled birdseed and how to keep it from spoiling, birders can be sure to offer their backyard birds fresh, healthy, tasty seed in every feeder.

Photo – Spoiled Seed © frankenstoen

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