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Why You Shouldn't Feed Junk Food to the Peacocks at the Zoo


My rescued cockatiel runs my life, and I'm a volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Can Peacocks Eat Bread, Chocolate, or Junk Food?

Even though peafowl are not native to the United States, many Americans still have contact with them at zoos, parks, and petting farms, where free-ranging peacocks and peahens may roam the grounds. Thanks to their colorful, iridescent plumage and friendly dispositions, these birds have many fans.

Most zoos and parks have signs posted asking visitors to please not feed the animals, but many people choose to ignore the warnings so they can interact with the peacocks and see them up close. During my last trip to the zoo, I personally witnessed several people tossing french fries to the peacocks. A quick YouTube search brought up videos of people feeding them popcorn, pizza, Cheetos, and corn chips. Unfortunately, when you feed junk food to these birds, you're causing them harm.

Filling Up on Junk Food Causes Nutrient Deficiencies

The table scraps people usually feed to peafowl are high in starch and low in actual nutrition. Most zoos and parks set up peacock feeding stations that have plenty of the birds' nutrient-rich foods. However, if the peafowl fill up on high-carbohydrate, high-fat, low-nutrient junk, they aren't going to eat much of their real food, if any at all.

As you may imagine, this leads to nutrient deficiencies, just like eating fast food for every meal of every day will lead to malnutrition in humans. Of course, this can make the birds more susceptible to infections, weight gain, heart disease, and other health problems. If juvenile birds primarily eat junk food, they don't grow and develop properly.

A High-Fat Diet Can Cause Fatty Liver Disease

Any animal that has a liver can get fatty liver disease (large amounts of fat in the liver), and this includes birds. When a bird has this disease, he may have difficulty breathing due to the enlarged liver pressing on other organs, his skin may be itchy, and he may develop diarrhea. When the disease becomes advanced, central nervous system problems (and even death) may occur.

What causes it? Primarily nutrient deficiencies and a high-fat diet.

Other Considerations

  • When people regularly feed the peafowl, the birds congregate where people are eating (such as a food court) because it improves the odds the birds will get a handout. Birds are great, but as anybody who has owned a bird or worked with birds will tell you, they poop. A lot. They drop it wherever they happen to be when they have to go. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites may be found in bird poop. Do you really want that all over the ground in your eating area?
  • A common myth is that bread expands in birds' stomachs and kills them. While this is untrue, too much bread can cause an impaction in the crop.
  • Some foods, such as chocolate and avocado, don't just lead to malnutrition. They are flat out toxic to birds.
  • If birds become too used to receiving handouts, they can sometimes become aggressive with humans. When this happens, the loser is almost always the animal.
  • As with humans, an occasional bite of junk food may not be harmful to a peacock. However, thousands of people may visit a major zoo on any given day, and if only ten percent of them give junk to the birds, that adds up to hundreds of french fries or chips. Please keep that in mind if you're tempted to think, "Oh, one french fry won't hurt the bird."

Some zoos and parks sell pellets and cracked corn that you can safely feed the peacocks. Even if your local zoo does not do this, the birds are usually used to being around people, so you can take photos and enjoy them without feeding them junk and potentially making them sick.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 11, 2012:

LOL - not take marshmallows into the zoo. What was I thinking?

Jennifer Bridges (author) from Michigan on June 10, 2012:

Haha, well, I guess there's not much you can do when you have a thieving peacock like that!

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 10, 2012:

At the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago a few years back, I had an open bag of marshmallows in a paper sack. A peacock walked around me, stretched his neck and snapped his head into the sack and grabbed a marshmallow before I could react. Swallowed it whole. I was stunned.

Jennifer Bridges (author) from Michigan on June 06, 2012:

Thank you! It always drives me crazy when I see people feeding junk to these birds. I've said something a few times, but I usually just get a "who are you?" look.

Thanks for the comment and the votes!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 06, 2012:

Voted awesome and up. These are very wise words. Zoos and petting parks post these signs for a reason and this information that jen has given is very true. Our food that has come about over the decades isn't even fit for us, so can you imagine what it will do to animals with different alimentary systems? It is a recipe for disaster. Thanks, jen for these wise words.


Human understanding can help animals

Yes because…

By taking our children to zoos, by educating them and showing them how beautiful animals are, we are entrusting the animal future to them. If they have had a first hand experience of these animals then they will be more likely to take heed of animal needs in the long run. They will be less likely to buy animal furs or elephant tusks. In turn, they will be more likely to buy animal friendly produce and be more likely to campaign for these animals. Even if a few animals are harmed in the process, the outcome outweighs that harm more animals will be saved in the future.

No because…

We would not tolerate this view if it were placed on humans. We would not force a human to be subjected to inhumane treatment and captivity with the reasoning that they would be saving future humans. We have something that is called integrity. Everyone has it and there is no reason why animals should not be given this grace as well. We cannot subject an animal, against it wishes to captivity and rationed foods by citing the future good for all animals. We should respect every animal, even those in zoos and not offer them up as sacrifice.


Why You Shouldn’t Feed Monkeys

1) They’re wild animals. i.e. they aren’t pets and aren’t in a zoo.

They don’t need you to give them food. There’s no need for it.

For thousands of years monkeys have managed to live on whatever they can find in the jungle. So you don’t have to be David Attenborough to realise that this seems to suit them and they’re in no danger of becoming extinct due to too much healthy eating and daily exercise from foraging for food.

2) They have accidents

When they come to areas by the roadside then there’s a risk of monkeys being either attacked by street dogs or hit by cars. ( See photo above again ) Monkeys are share around 93% of their DNA with humans. Mothers care for their young in the same way as humans do. How would you feel if your young child was hit by a car crossing a road to get food from a stranger?

3) They get fat and lazy

The monkeys are going to get lazy & dependent on sugary food. A bit like the human population is also doing in many countries.

If they know they can easily get whatever snacks tourists throw at them, then they aren’t going to bother making an effort to do what comes naturally and go looking for proper, healthy food.

Monkeys should travel 15+ Km a day to remain healthy. If they know they just have to jump out of the tree and cross the road to where fruit will be waiting whenever they get hungry, they tend to get fat and lazy. It’s like a human living entirely off junk food who’s only daily exercise is picking up the phone to call Pizza Hut for a delivery.

4) They get very hangry.

If the monkeys don’t get their sugar fix then they get cranky and start searching for whatever they can find in garbage bins. Again, this is far easier than spending all day running around the jungle. Not only does this lead to them ingesting plastic – which isn’t a good thing – it also makes the place look a mess with litter strewn all around the bins.

5) They can be dangerous.

If they see you holding food and want you to hand it over they will become very threatening, especially the adult males.

Your child will have nightmares when the cute, funny monkey, without warning, bares its teeth and rushes towards her, ripping the bag of fruit from her hands. If you were bitten or scratched by a street dog then you’d go to the doctor and get a Rabies shot. Same applies for monkeys, you’ll need a Rabies shot.

Only you’ll probably also want to get some meds for B virus herpes – as wild monkeys often carry that which can infect humans. Plus you might as well get Hepatitis B shots as well – just to be on the safe side. That’s not going to be much fun for an adult, let alone a kid.

All that just because you wanted to feed a monkey a banana it didn’t need.

So by all means take some photos when you see them. They are fun to watch playing in the trees. But DON’T do what the people in this video, taken on White Sand beach, are doing.

End of sermon. You can go back to planning your holiday now. :-)


The benefits of animals in zoos & aquariums far outweigh the negatives. Education and empathy are heightened by humans having interaction with wildlife. And animals are treated very well in these establishments. They do not have to worry about predators or where their next meal will come from. As long as trained people are taking care of them, I have no problem with zoos, aquariums, or other sites.

All animals are safer in zoo's than in the wild.When the animal's are in zoo's they get fed.In the wild thay have to hunt for their food.When a mom give's birth some one help,just like in zoo's. In the wild the baby is just born and no one help's,so most likely the baby in the wild will die.


Animals are taken from he wild. Animals live in cages. They should be band because, an investigator filmed sick animals. Left dead animals to rot on the zoo floor. There is not enough room for the animals in the zoos. The animals suffer in zoos (not enough food). So sad.

Zoos should be banned because zoos could harm animals. You never know if a zoo is a harmful one or a helpful one. Animals could also get zoochoisis. A type of disease that will harm animals because they have stayed in zoos for a long time. Animals get crazy and they create un natural things on their body.


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