As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Quality, not quantity, of diet is key to health of baby birds

Date: September 21, 2016
Source: Cornell University

In a new study that upends the way ornithologists think about a young bird's diet -- but won't shock parents used to scanning the nutritional profile of their children's food -- Cornell researchers have found that when it comes to what chicks eat, quality trumps quantity.
In recent decades, many aerial insectivores, such as tree swallows, have undergone steep population declines. Cornell researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the fatty acid composition in the tree swallow diet plays a key role in chick health and survival rates, potentially pointing to new ways to protect fragile bird species.

"This study really reforms the way ecologists see the food of wild animals," said senior author David Winkler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "From a preoccupation with how much food is available, we need to turn our eyes to what kind of food is available."

For the study, researchers manipulated the ratio of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids [the good fat present in fish oil] to short-chain omega-3 fatty acids [the good fat in flax seeds] as well as the amount of food. Chicks given diets rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) grew faster, were in better condition, had more efficient metabolisms and had a stronger immune response compared with chicks on a low LCPUFA diet.

The researchers found that chicks had higher growth rates and better body condition when they were fed a small amount of high-quality food than if they were fed a large amount of low-quality food.

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