Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
High-protein diet helps molting birds

High-protein diet helps molting birds


A blue jay is shown in its fall molting stage.

Most backyard feeder birds molt from July-September. Some molt through October like Downy Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves. Bird and nature enthusiasts can help birds with the molting process by providing foods rich in protein.

Molting describes when a bird replaces some (partial molt) or all (full molt) of its feathers. Birds will also molt if they have lost feathers that need to be replaced immediately. Molting can be so physically demanding that many species of birds cannot fly during this time. Some birds such as geese, ducks and swans will molt in seclusion to avoid predators.

It takes extra energy to grow feathers and also the right building blocks to grow them. Feathers are over 90% protein, primarily keratins. A bird's feathers contain 25% of the total protein found within its entire body. The main ingredients in growing feathers are amino acids (protein) and lipids (fats). Birds will eat more of their daily diet and/or seek out foods high in protein and fat to satisfy both the extra energy requirements and the needed building blocks.

A diet low in proteins and fats may cause feathers to be improperly colored or form defectively such as being frayed or curved. If their feathers are defective, it could seriously hinder their flying or insulation abilities.

Offering bird foods high in protein and fats in backyard bird feeders is helpful during molting seasons. Foods such as Nyjer (thistle), peanuts, mealworms and other high protein foods aid birds in replacing their feathers.

Offering seasonally appropriate food choices isn’t only a wonderful way to see a variety of birds, but it’s also a way to provide birds with a necessary food source during a very crucial time of their lives. Happy Birdfeeding!

Kathy and her husband, John, own and operate the Wild Birds Unlimited, located in Billings and at  She is an MBA and a Certified Bird Feeding Specialist. 


Sprout new ideas

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News