Science Sunday: Why do animals love bird seed?

Birdseed around white copy space shaped as a heart

Welcome to Science Sunday!  On Wednesday we made a food tree to help feed the wild animals through this long winter.  On Friday we talked about the animals who visited our food tree; specifically the squirrels with their crazy antics and the black-capped chickadee.  All this led us to a question, why do animals love bird seed so much?  Birds love it, squirrels will go to great lengths to get it, and even deer will slurp it out of a bird feeder!  So what makes bird seed so popular?

From the National Aviary I learned that birds have a very high basal metabolic rate.  And from an article by Gary Ritchison at Eastern Kentucky University, I learned that in general the smaller the bird, the higher its metabolic rate.  So for instance the humming-bird has a higher metabolic rate than the common raven, but the common ravens metabolic rate is higher than a humans.  Due to their high basal metabolic rate, birds need a lot of energy in the form of food.  They need food that is rich in fat and protein, especially in winter, and bird seed fits the bill (no pun intended!).

What about squirrels and deer?  Well, I didn’t find anything to specifically address that question, but I think I have an educated guess.  In general, an animals instinct will guide them toward survival.  If bird seed is so nutrition packed with fat and protein, then I think it makes sense that squirrel and deer are also drawn to the bird seed, especially in winter, when other food sources are more scarce.  The birdseed delivers powerfully nutrition to aid them in the winter months.  I bet it might be pretty tasty too!  I certainly like the taste of fat and protein.  So that is my educated guess on why not only the birds love the bird seed.  Any environmental science majors out there who would like to weigh in?

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Sarah Korhnak

A nature lover busy making her own backyard brilliant!

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