are fat balls good for birds

How to feed fat balls to wild birds

Although fat balls are a year-round treat for wild birds, it’s advisable to exercise caution when releasing them in the summer, particularly in extremely hot weather.

We would advise removing any uneaten feed and replacing it with fresh suet each week because fat balls can spoil if left out for prolonged periods of time (especially in warm weather). When providing them during the warmer months, try to keep them in a covered area. Storing them in the freezer during extremely hot weather is a great tip.

Making your own suet feed can be a fun wintertime activity for the whole family (check out our blog post on How to Make Suet Cakes for Birds to learn how). However, be aware that fat balls, especially homemade ones, can be highly heat-sensitive, so it’s probably best to postpone this activity until the colder months.

Providing your local birds with tasty suet balls is made simple and quick with our selection of fat ball bird feeders! Really Wild Bird Food offers a variety of fat balls and suet products to give wild birds those much-needed calories!

Suet Balls with Insect for Wild Birds

Our super suet fat balls with insect are among our most well-liked products here at Really Wild Bird Food. Like all fat balls, these are a great source of calories and essential fats. Packed full of insects to supply protein, the building blocks for growth, combined with an irresistible taste that wild birds adore!

Good for some species but not others?

In these studies, the provision of bird foods high in fat produced differing results. Concerningly, the supplements decreased productivity in the two tit studies, but increased productivity in the Great Spotted Woodpecker study.

Therefore, it’s possible that species-specific differences exist in the effects of fat-based dietary supplements on breeding productivity. As different species approach the breeding season, their nutritional needs will change, and it is possible that under typical conditions, some species may find different nutrients limiting. e. non-supplemented) conditions.

These studies, however, do not allow us to draw the conclusion that fat-based foods are “good” for Great Spotted Woodpeckers but “bad” for tits. The disparity in the results could be explained by a variety of other factors.

For example, the food supplements offered in each study varied slightly, were available during different months of the year, and the studies themselves covered different years or lasted for varying amounts of years.

Different species must receive the same foods in the same location and for the same amount of time, with their nests observed, in order to further explore whether fat-based bird foods affect productivity differently in different species.

There are two particular ‘unknowns’ that are important to consider. The first concerns matters outside of the breeding season. These three studies show that fat-based bird food can impact breeding productivity; however, how might these offerings affect survival in between breeding seasons?

Unfortunately, we do not yet know. For example, it is possible that fat-based bird food could improve tits’ chances of surviving through the summer, fall, and winter even though it lowers breeding productivity.

Plummer et al. (2013) hypothesize that the lower productivity they saw may have been caused by winter feeding, which allowed lower quality individuals to survive into the breeding season.

How well the results of these studies translate to garden feeding is the second big unknown. You’ll notice that all three studies took place in woodland. This is no coincidence. To the best of our knowledge, no research of a similar nature has been done in gardens; the majority of food supplementation studies have been conducted in non-urban settings.

Why is this?

The reason is that conducting research in gardens is exceedingly challenging logistically. Since gardens are privately owned, carrying out this kind of work would require a significant amount of public participation and cooperation. Furthermore, it is challenging to regulate the variety and quantity of food offered. Alternatively, feeding studies are simpler to carry out in non-urban settings.

Nevertheless, there is a cost associated with attempting to decipher the implications of the findings for garden feeding. For example, in the broadleaved woodland habitat that Harrison and colleagues (2010) found that, in contrast to their urban-breeding cousins, adult Blue Tits and Great Tits are able to raise a larger number of offspring due to the abundance of caterpillars.

It’s possible that peanut cake in the woodland will upset the balance of this “optimal” breeding environment for tits in some way. However, in gardens, where caterpillars are typically less common, offering peanut cake could provide adults with a more welcome boost.

In fact, it has been proposed that when natural conditions are otherwise unfavorable, food supplementation has a greater beneficial impact on breeding success. We might anticipate quite different effects of food provision if garden/urban areas represent poorer breeding habitat than non-urban areas, as appears to be the case in many species.