The outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
The short answer is maybe. Lots of folks place grape jelly in a saucer or in one of the commercial feeders made just for feeding jelly to birds and enjoy the likes of Baltimore Orioles, Woodpeckers and Tanagers at their feeders. The question is, Do birds actually benefit from the extra sugary offering, or are they harmed by it?
Kent Mahaffy manager of the San Diego Wild Animal Park's famous free-flight bird show says:
“In general, any food that exceeds the balance of sucrose in a bird's natural diet is suspect. Natural nectars contain 12% to 30% sugars, while jams and jellies are more than half sugar. He also said that higher than normal sugar loads may outstrip a bird's ability to adequately process the sugar (as it does in humans); and products high in sugars are an ideal environment for bacterial growth.”
One recommended alternative: grapes. Birds love them, and they have real nutrients, not just sugar. So, set your old grapes out for the birds. The bottom line is that while we don't know how jelly affects birds, it may, as Mahaffy says, be harmful.
Laura Eriksson in her For The Birds blog answers our question this way: “I think it's CRITICAL to stop feeding jelly if there is any evidence birds are feeding it to nestlings or bringing fledglings to it--growing babies need protein, not such a heavy carb load. And if an individual bird seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time at the jelly, I'd close down shop, too. At this point, I'm going to probably continue to feed it during migration, especially during cold weather.”
Me too. If you have other information on this question, I'd enjoy reading it.