Birds and Bad Nutrition

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Without a doubt, the majority of us have fed a bird something that wasn’t healthy for it without even knowing it. From potato chips at the beach to throwing bread crumbs at the park or even treating Polly to some crackers. Birds have the ability to fly and catch our eye due to their millions of feathers which require lots of maintenance and nutrients to stay beautiful. It’s no surprise then that birds have very particular dietary requirements and can’t get everything they need from any single food source. Unfortunately bread and other high protein foods are actually incredibly unhealthy for birds. Overfeeding and diets that are low in manganese, vitamin D3, and vitamin E can lead to a damaging malformation of flight feathers known as “angel wing” or “airplane wing”. This conformational abnormality is a result of primary flight feathers growing in too rapidly and ultimately outgrowing the muscles in the third joint of the wing; causing the wing to then twist outward. This condition prevents the bird from flying and increases the rate of feather damage. Studies show that there is a significantly higher number of birds with this condition at and near public parks.

As humans and natures nurturers, it’s our responsibility to give our birds foods that are good for them. So the next time you are at the park or beach some good substitutes to bread include wild bird seed, grapes, and blueberries. The employees and volunteers at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center are here to provide a safe place where you can take abandoned or malnourished wildlife for a second chance at life instead of feeding them or trying to raise them yourself. KEEP THEM FLYING!

To read more about research done on angel wing, refer to “Angel Wing in Ducks and Geese” by Janet Kear.

Sheila Behling, FKWBC Intern, 2015

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