Big Bird: How Fat Contributes to Bird Health

Fat and cholesterol are fearsome entities to humans, but fat is very important to keeping birds alive during the winter or helping with their long-distance migrations. In the autumn, birds “pig-out”, building up fat reserves against hard times ahead. Long-distance migrants can actually double their weight with fat deposits. Non-migrating winter birds don’t maintain as much fat, but when food is plentiful, they can add as much as 10 percent of their weight in fat.

With birds, fat deposits form under the skin, in the muscles and in the peritoneal cavity. Excess fat can be a nuisance in day-to-day living, but seldom threatens a bird’s health. Unlike humans, birds are fortunate in that they do not accumulate excessive fat in their heart muscle, even when obese.

Birds convert fat to energy as efficiently as they convert carbohydrates or protein. That is why fat rich seeds such as black-oil sunflower seeds or oil-fortified seeds such as Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Seed are an especially good selection during the autumn pre-migration period and during the winter.

Suets, which are made from saturated animal fat or fatty vegetable oils, are also very good fat sources for your birds. Many people incorrectly believe that suets should only be feed during the winter. Today, most suets, and those we feature at Urban Nature Store, are processed so as not to spoil in warmer weather. April to July is one of the largest suet consumption periods. By feeding suet year-round, you’ll get to see parents teach young woodpeckers how to drop by for a quick bite. By switching to orange or blueberry suets, Orioles, Warblers and other migrating birds often stop by for an evening fill-up.

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