Salt & sand…until lately, I really hadn’t known that wild birds needed these. During the recent snow storm, like most people I was stuck inside trying to stay pleasant to live with and not become bored. I rarely become bored because I enjoy such a variety of subjects.
Since I was watching the multitude of birds that flocked to my yard to eat, birds were definitely on my mind. So, I pulled out my bird books to read and come up with interesting facts that I wasn’t aware of. In my copy of The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible by Sally Roth, she had a drawing of the placement of things for a bird friendly yard.
One thing that I immediately noticed was a tray with a lip on it that was placed on the ground. On the tray was a “salt block.” As I read about the salt block, it shared that many birds (not all) enjoy salt added to their diet. They listed House Finches as the ones that enjoy salt the most, but Buntings, Doves, Purple Finches, Goldfinches, Jays, Pigeons, Pine Siskins, and House Sparrows…to name a few - like this mineral. They also showed a photo of Grosbeaks eating the salt, which is a much loved bird that will be coming back very soon to this area for the spring.
Salt is a mineral that if you leave it out in the rain will dissolve and any plant life below it will be killed. So, if you place a salt lick outside, you will have to move it in and out of the weather to prevent it wasting away. The tray or dish that you place the salt lick on also needs to be something waterproof that doesn’t permit the salt to penetrate to your yard.
If you live in an area that has deer or rabbits, it cautions you that these critters also enjoy salt blocks. So, if I decide to put salt out for my birds, I will leave it out only for short periods of time to prevent another problem, like my pesky raccoons of last summer.
Grit or sand is the other item that helps some birds to better digest their seeds. I had heard of chickens picking up pebbles and eating them to help their digestion, but I had not thought of my wild birds that visit my feeders needing grit. Because birds do not have teeth they use their gizzard along with sand to grind up the seeds that they eat. Wherever they can find sand they pick it up and use it. Cardinals, doves and other birds often pick up sand from road construction or the sides of the road during winter weather where crews have spread it for cars to have better traction.
A little bit of sand goes a long way, so placing a small shovel full in a container near your feeders will supply all your bird visitors will need to help them eat their meal. You can pick up a small bag of sand from Wal-Mart or from one of our local hardware stores.
So salt & sand gave me the “True Grit” of what wild birds need and I didn’t even know it - until I took the time to “Look at the birds of the air…” Matthew 6:26.
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