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A High-Protein Diet Helps Birds Grapple With Molting Season
A High-Protein Diet Helps Birds Grapple With Molting Season

Fellow humans: we have the power to help our feathered friends!

Molting season has officially started, and while this means lots of lost feathers for our feathered friends, the good — nay, the great — news is that humans can help by providing high-protein foods in our own backyards.

“Molting season is a crucial time in a bird’s yearly life cycle,” Wild Birds Unlimited Founder, President and CEO Jim Carpenter said. “It’s important that birds get the right nutrition. Here at Wild Birds Unlimited, we’re thrilled to offer a variety of foods that will give birds the help they need to regrow their best feathers.”

Molting is the process by which birds lose their feathers and regrow new ones. Molting is a demanding and time-consuming process for birds. Most birds molt their wing feathers one at a time on each wing so they can still fly. Geese, ducks and swans are known to molt in seclusion on or near water in order to evade predators because they molt all their flight feathers at the same time.

“Birds molt for a variety of reasons,” Wild Birds Unlimited Chief Naturalist, John Schaust, said. “They molt to regrow better, stronger and more beautiful feathers that will allow them to avoid predators and attract a mate. They are also known to regrow feathers that are lost and need to be replaced immediately.”

There are two types of molting: the full molt and the partial molt. The full molt takes place when a bird replaces all of its feathers. A partial molt is when a bird replaces only a portion of their feathers. The American Goldfinch is the perfect example of both. They go through a partial molt in the spring to replace only their body feathers, while their flight and tail and body feathers get a full molt replacement each fall.

The length and time of molting depend on the species. Most backyard feeder birds molt between the months of July and September. Mourning Doves and goldfinches, for example, will molt through October. 

Regardless of the season, that’s a lot of feathers. And it’s important to note that proper nutrition is crucial for excellent feather regrowth. Feathers consist of more than 90 percent protein, primarily keratins, and feathers contain 25 percent of the total protein found within a bird’s entire body. If a bird does not get the proper nutrition while molting, that can result in poor feather regrowth.

“Birds that do not receive the proper nutrition while molting may grow feathers that are weak or curved,” Schaust said. “This can severely impact their flying capabilities. Their feathers may also grow with a duller hue, which can be detrimental to their chances of attracting a mate.”

Poor feather growth can also lead to insulation problems, which can negatively affect a bird’s ability to stay warm and dry.

So, if you want to help your backyard buddies attract a mate, avoid predators and not freeze to death, make sure to stock up on foods that contain the protein and fats they need. Protein is essential for growing strong feathers. Fats are essential for feather coloration. Every molting bird needs extra proteins to grow strong feathers for proper flight and effective insulation. They need extra fats for energy to grow feathers and provide proper coloration to best attract a mate.

Recommended high-protein foods include mealworms, various Bark Butter foods, Nyjer, seed blends and seed cylinders that contain sunflower seeds, nuts and Bark Butter Bits, as well as suets that contain nuts.

“These foods are already proven favorites with our feathered fans, and they’re also high in the proteins and fats they need in order for optimal feather growth,” Schaust said.

So, stock up on the high-protein and high-fat foods and watch as those birdies grow some prime plumage!

With locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, Wild Birds Unlimited is the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores. Recently ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the Retail category on Franchise Business Review’s prestigious 2018 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards, there's no better time to join the Wild Birds Unlimited team. Click here to learn more.

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