Date: 2/25/18 12:21 pm
From: Elise W <ewolf97...>
Subject: [obol] suet & "butters" in trees
Hi All,

Its getting more popular to spread "butters" (peanut butter, or suet) onto
trees, or hang it so that it is free for a bird to land on. Just because
something is popular, or someone can make money on an idea, does not make
it a *good* idea. In this case, its a deadly idea for birds.

Here's why: oils cannot be removed from birds' feathers by the bird.
Period. At all. Their saliva does not have the components (solvents) to
remove oils. (That's why it takes people to wash birds in an oil spill
(regardless of type of oil, fish, fats, or petroleum for ex).

Oiled feathers mean a cold bird. Oils remove the waterproofing by sticking
the microscopic barbs together, and thus the heat retaining character of a
feather is lost. If the feathers that hold body heat in are oiled, that
creates a location in which warmth can leak out and cold in. In
temperatures even slightly cool, that can kill a bird. (They burn too much
energy staying warm and preening, and fail).

Cold birds that make it through the night, starve, as they spend all their
time and energy trying to get warm (preening). Starvation for a songbird in
winter is fast.

How does the fat get on the feathers? PREENING.

Watch a bird preen. It uses it feet for its head and other feathers. So,
lets say Ms. Junco lands on that enticing pile of homemade pb, suet, nut
concoction you've made (Yum!). It gets it on her feet. Full and satisfied,
she flies or hops off for a relaxing bit of rest and preening. As she
scratches her head (one of the least feather protected areas of a bird's
body), it rubs some residue of fats from the food into her head feathers.
Now you basically have a partially oiled bird. Further preening spreads it
further. (Oils in warm weather, like Rio Grande) is WORSE.

Hypothermic, starving birds are not seen except rarely. These birds will
huddle somewhere trying to stay warm. So the fact that someone has never
*seen *this does not mean it doesn't happen. And, no, your likely not going
to see a population decline either. And sure, some birds *might *be fine.
But, ask if its worth the risk?

Since I wash these birds, I can tell you it does happen. (Peanut butter
takes the same wash protocol as petroleum/crude oil, as does suet, actually
suet is harder to get out!!!).

Options: Make sure all suet is hard, very hard. Put out in cold weather
only. Enclose in cage, and don't let fats build up, keep it clean. Think
fully about birds' behavior before entertaining the next big fad.

Sorry to be a bummer.

Elise Wolf
Native Bird Care
Sisters, OR

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