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October 26, 2013

Suet helps birds during colder weather

First, an interesting note from afield. A Calliope hummingbird was found on Nantucket last weekend. Our smallest hummingbird from the southwestern United States, this is only about the fifth record of this bird for Massachusetts. As I have mentioned before, if you still have hummingbird feeders up, or flowers that have not succumbed to the cold, and you see a hummingbird out this time of year, check it carefully.

This is the time of year when we are visited by vagrant hummingbirds from the western states that, for whatever reason, migrate east instead of south. Take a picture if you can as hummingbird identification can be tricky. Keep a close eye out for other unusual birds in your yard as well.

As the weather changes, I thought I would again share some thoughts about having suet available for birds. As the weather gets colder, some birds become more active around the bird feeders. Not only do they go for the bird seed, but the suet begins disappearing faster as well. Have you ever wondered why this is?

Birds have a high metabolic rate and must eat constantly during the day to have enough reserves to carry them through the colder nights. The colder the nights, the more reserves they need. They must also be able to convert that food quickly to heat and energy to survive. Foods with higher oil and fat content become most important.

Black oil sunflower, peanuts, safflower, corn and suet are some of the highest oil content foods that you can serve birds during the colder months. Suet, by far, provides more energy per bite than all the others. Suet is fat from cattle and sheep. Of course there is nothing like suet in the natural world for birds, so why are birds attracted to it? It is speculated that suet is an excellent substitute for insects, which are a rich source of fat and protein for birds during warmer months. Birds probably use suet to supplement insects during the warmer months and as a substitute during colder months when insects are not available.

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