While any food provided to wild birds is beneficial, there are a few items that are very important to their health, especially in the winter, but which are often over-looked by well-meaning avian enthusiasts.
Pigeons, Doves and many other birds must swallow small stones, sand and similar materials (“grit”) in order to break down seed coats and other foods before digestion can take place. Grit is often in short supply during the winter, being either covered with snow or frozen to the ground (in NYC, I’ve observed English sparrows on buildings, pecking at gravel within brick mortar).
You can help winter birds along by providing pet bird gravel, sand and oyster shell (available at garden supply shops) in snow-free locations. It is best to keep grit separated from food, as it will be used slowly and may become contaminated with feces if it lies out too long.
Calcium is especially important as winter turns to spring, since female birds utilize this mineral to produce egg shells. However, insects, the main source of calcium for many species, are often scarce at this time of the year. Our Wild Bird Mealworms will be most appreciated by nearly every bird that visits your feeder. You can also supply calcium by mixing oyster shell and ground-up eggshells into your wild bird food.
Food and Shelter
Of course, food and shelter are important concerns year-round. Please be sure to check out our extensive line of bird and wildlife foods, houses and feeders.
Next time we’ll cover a few additional winter-feeding essentials.
Winter is a great time to try your luck at hand-feeding wild birds. Please see Hand Taming Wild Birds for more details.
Woodpeckers, chickadees and other acrobatic birds will put on quite a show if given the chance – please check out Feeding Woodpeckers and Other Avian Athletes for details.