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Feeding wild birds a holistic, organic diet

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A bag of birdseed is a bag of birdseed, right? Just pick up a 10-pound sack at the mall, fill the feeders and watch the wild birds flock to the yard…or not. It turns out that not all birdseed is created equal, or is even beneficial for wild birds. In fact, many commercially-prepared seed mixtures can be unhealthy and even downright toxic for our fine-feathered friends.

Writing in a recent posting of the Holistic Bird Newsletter, Gloria Dodd, DVM, notes that after traumas, almost 90 percent of the emergencies that befall birds are related to nutrition. Contaminated or polluted feed and water are the major culprits when it comes to feeding wild birds. Dodd goes on to explain that foods that wild birds love, such as alfalfa and clover, are plants likely to have absorbed the aluminum that is found in clay soils that have been exposed to acid rain. Aluminum, along with pesticides, travels to the bird’s nervous system and touches every organ in its body; the bird’s immune system is also affected.

Dodd adds, “I have had many pet foods (as well as food and water consumed by people), tested and I am shocked at the level of pollution we have in this country. It is a serious health hazard for all species…” Environmental Illness, as she terms it, can lead to chronic degenerative diseases of all organs of the body as well as tumors and cancer.

Is there a remedy?

Fortunately, there is. Today, more and more people are looking for alternatives to the highly processed, chemically tainted foods available on the commercial market and are instead choosing organic foods both for themselves and the animals they love. Dodd recommends getting sunflower and other seed mixes from organic farmers. Peanuts are good too, but only unsalted, and purchased from reputable organic sources. (Many commercially grown peanuts are contaminated with the carcinogenic fungi, Aflatoxin.) She also discourages feeding millet, because of the high percentage of fatty abdominal tumors associated with it.

Wholesome choices

According to Alicia McWatters, Ph.D., C.N.C., “Birds need a diet consisting of as great a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits as possible, with the addition of grains, beans and nuts…They have evolved to survive best on a diet of primarily live, fresh foods and to be able to make wise food choices if allowed the privilege. Our job is to give them the opportunity and the privilege and then walk away, allowing them to do their part and eat the foods they are drawn to on a given day.”

McWatters recommends feeding birds fresh raw foods, such as fruits, vegetable matter, nuts, seeds, sprouts, berries, leaf buds, pollen, and nectar, in addition to the insects, larvae, and small vertebrae that they will find on their own. “When it comes to manufactured diets, not only are these products primarily made up of fragmented substances and isolated, synthetic vitamins and inorganic minerals, most do not contain important elements like enzymes, chlorophyll, and other natural beneficial substances which are found in natural foods,” she said. “There isn't a commercial food product or nutritional supplement available that can provide our birds with the outstanding goodness that is to be found in Mother Nature's garden.”

Some wild bird lovers will go to even greater lengths. In a recent posting on Bird Lovers Only Rescue, Jason Crean, President of The Avicultural Society of Chicagoland (TASC), offers this recipe for Beaks Fruit Birdie Bread:

  • 1 cup organic corn meal
  • 1 cup organic coconut flour
  • 1/2-cup rolled oats
  • 8 oz organic applesauce
  • 8 oz organic fruit baby food (your choice of fruit flavor)
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1/2-cup organic chamomile tea (liquid)
  • 1/2-cup organic coconut oil (liquid)
  • 1/2-cup organic red palm oil (liquid)
  • 1/2-cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2-cup pine nuts (chopped)

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients in order listed above except for pine nuts. Mix with hand mixer or standard mixer until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread mixture in greased jellyroll pan, sprinkle pine nuts on top. Bake in pre-heated 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool and cut with a knife. Then – watch the birds go wild!

So with a little planning and only a bit of effort, caring and concerned wild-bird lovers can truly nourish – and cherish – the magical creatures that bring so much joy to their lives.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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