- Young birds need calcium, protein and fat among other nutrients while growing.
- Most dietary calcium in young birds is used for the formation of skeletal (bone) production.
- Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in the body and is required in the diet in greater amounts than any other mineral.
- Calcium is the most challenging mineral because of the extreme changes in periods of demand and because many foods are likely to be deficient in calcium.
- If given a choice between two foods that are identical in every respect except calcium level, young birds and laying females will select a calcium-adequate food more frequently than a deficient one.
- Birds find calcium in their natural foods like seeds, snail shells and other exoskeletons of insects, egg shells (e.g. from other earlier-nesting birds), mortar picked off of buildings, bones (e.g. often fish bones), ashes, soil (if it is rich in calcium) and other sources.
- Birds are able to easily digest and use the calcuim from calcium carbonate, limestone, oyster shell, and calcium phosphates. The WBU Plus Blends contain calcium carbonate.
- Protein requirements, from amino acids, are highest at hatching and until adult size and weight is achieved.
- Protein is essential for growing strong feathers.
- Fats are essential for feather coloration.
- Every young bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. They need extra fats for energy to grow feathers and provide proper coloration to best attract a mate when they are mature.
- A diet low in proteins and fats may cause feathers to be improperly colored or form defectively such as being frayed or curved. If their colors are duller, birds may have trouble attracting a mate. If the feathers are defective, it could seriously hinder their flying or insulation abilities.
- Feathers are over 90% protein, primarily keratins.
- A bird’s feathers contain 25% of the total protein found within its entire body.
- It takes extra energy to grow feathers and also the right building blocks to grow them. The main ingredients in growing feathers are amino acids (protein) and lipids (fats). Birds will eat more of their daily diet and / or seek out foods high in protein and fat to satisfy both the extra energy requirements and the needed building blocks.
- Lipids are substances such as a fat, oil or wax (usually from tree fruits). Dietary lipids supply energy, essential fatty acids and pigments for birds.
- Like pigment dyes are used to color our clothes, colors in feathers come from different pigments found in lipids.
- Red, orange, and yellows to violet colors = Carotenoid pigments
- Black, brown, gray and related tints = Melanin and porphyrin pigments
- Blue and white colors = Not created by pigments but by reflections of light off the structural elements of a feather
- Greens = Carotenoid and melanin pigments combined with structural feather elements
- In many bird species, carotenoids are required for breeding success...poorly colored birds are less likely to breed. Carotenoids help communicate reproductive fitness to prospective mates by providing a vibrant and bright plumage...a sign of being successful at obtaining both a sufficient quality and quantity of food.
- The more color and more brightly colored a male House Finch the greater the likelihood of attracting a mate.
- A male Red-winged Blackbird’s dominance depends on his bright red shoulder epaulettes being bigger than another male’s. The larger the red epaulet patch, the better he can defend a territory and attract multiple mates.
- The top recommended foods for birds to meet their protein and fat cravings are:
Recommended Blends: Plus Blends, Choice, No-Mess Blends, Supreme
Recommended Seeds: Peanuts, Nyjer, Sunflower Chips
Recommended Other Foods: Mealworms, Stackable Seed Cylinders and No-Melt Suet Doughs