Home | Bird Behavior | Grit, Calcium, Salt and Water – Wild Bird Feeding “Extras” – Part 1

Grit, Calcium, Salt and Water – Wild Bird Feeding “Extras” – Part 1

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.


Further Reading

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.


About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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