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wild bird feeding

Wild Birds and Bird Feed Supplements

It is a well-known fact that wild birds love to eat bird feed such as bird seed, suet, and insects. But have you ever heard of anyone mixing wood ash, egg shells, and gravel into bird feed? Recent studies suggest that wild birds need a small amount of grit containing calcium, salt, and roughage that may be essential for the development of baby birds and proper egg shell formation.

If you are a bird watching enthusiast, consider providing these bird feed supplements in addition to the standard wild bird seed and suet this year.

Here are a few things you can provide for backyard birds that may help with a flock's long-term health:

  • Dried mealworms
  • Eggshells
  • Finely-crushed gravel or mortar
  • Sand
  • Crushed oyster shell
  • Wood ash from your fireplace or firepit

You may already have some of these materials in your yard, flower beds, playgrounds, landscaping, or driveway. If not, consider picking up a small bag of pet bird gravel from your local pet store. Another option is to leave egg shells from your kitchen in your compost pile where birds can reach them.

Why do Wild Birds Need Calcium Along with their Bird Feed?

In the winter, female birds use calcium to produce egg shells for egg laying in the spring. Strong egg shells are critical to the development of wild bird fetuses.

Insects are a main source of calcium for birds in the summer. However; in the winter, insects are scarce, and calcium sources for birds are few and far between. For this reason, feeding mealworms and eggshells to wild birds is a helpful way to keep them coming back to your yard.

How to Feed Calcium to Wild Birds

After the first killing frost, or frosty night that is cold enough to kill insects and plants, consider mixing in a small amount of crushed egg shells with your bird seed. This will keep a steady supply of much-needed calcium available to your backyard bird visitors and keep them coming back for a reliable source of nutrition.

Another option is to provide a separate dish containing bird gravel or crushed shells. The "grit" dish should be located away from your other bird seed feeders. Shells and grit are consumed more slowly by birds, so save wasted grit by separating it from your other feeding areas.