Why Do Birds Need Calcium?

Just like people, birds require calcium to maintain their health. Calcium is important in maintaining a healthy skeletal structure, allowing the muscular and nervous systems to function properly, and is needed for blood to clot in wounds. A calcium-deficient adult bird may utilize the calcium from its bones, leading to brittle bones.

Calcium becomes especially important during the nesting season. First, female birds must markedly increase their calcium intake in order to produce viable eggs. Most of the dietary calcium an egg-laying female consumes will go directly into the production of eggs. Calcium deficiency can result in fewer eggs being laid. Eggs that lack the proper amount of calcium have thinner-than-normal shells, which can result in the embryos drying up due to excess evaporation through the thin shell. Growing chicks also require extra calcium. Rickets, lameness, enlarged joints, and misshapen bones will result in chicks if they do not get enough calcium as they grow.

Where do birds get calcium? Some birds consume most of their calcium in their diet. Hawks can get calcium from the blood and bones of their prey, shorebirds may consume the calcium-rich shells of small mollusks, while certain species of sparrows and blackbirds eat plant matter, like kale, that is high in calcium. Most birds, however, have to find extra sources of calcium outside of their normal diet. Birds may seek out small snails, pick at the bones of animal carcasses or the shed antlers of deer, moose, and their ilk, and consume the eggs or eggshells of other birds. Many birds obtain calcium from mineral deposits in dirt. Unfortunately, acid rain will leach calcium out of these deposits, making it harder for birds to get the calcium they need.

Providing calcium is a great way to help the birds visiting your feeders. If given a choice between two foods that are identical in every respect except calcium level, chicks and egg-laying females will select a calcium-adequate food more frequently than a deficient one. Calcium-rich foods will promote more, healthy babies for birds nesting in your area and increase the birds visiting your feeder. Wild Birds Unlimited offers several options for providing calcium to the birds. Stop in today to see all of our calcium-included foods and give your birds a boost this spring.