Birds using salt blocks

In the past, I have put out salt blocks for the deer to use in winter, but then I learned that other animals will use them as well. I have seen squirrels and rabbits licking at the blocks and chipmunks in their vicinity, but I was most surprised when I first saw purple finches (Haemorhous purpureus) pecking away at them.

squirrel at salt block IMG_5209 ©Maria de Bruynsigned resrabbit at salt block IMG_6254©Maria de Bruynsigned

At first, I thought this was abnormal or unusual but a specialist with the Audubon Society/North Carolina wildlife department told me that finches and other bird species will do this regularly to obtain salt when it is lacking from their diet. They also use the salt to help clean out their gizzards (an organ behind the stomach that helps break down seeds and food so that the bird can digest it more easily).

male and female purple finch at salt block IMG_7614©Maria de Bruynsignedresmale and female purple finch at salt block IMG_2733© Maria de Bruynsigned res

Apparently, mourning doves, sparrows, grosbeaks, pine siskins, goldfinches, house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) and purple finches (like those in the photos) will all peck at salt blocks. So far, I have only seen the purple and house finches doing it.

Sometimes, they have had mini-gatherings there, making the salt block a place for socializing!

purple finches at salt block IMG_7605©Maria de Bruynsignedrespurple finches gathering at salt block IMG_4244©Maria de Bruynsignedres

Balancing on the block can also involve some acrobatics.

house finch IMG_9840©Maria de Bruynreshouse finch IMG_9841©Maria de Bruynres

It’s nice to have something to offer them besides suet, bird seed and bird baths.

Next week’s blog: acrobatic squirrels

4 thoughts on “Birds using salt blocks

  1. Pingback: Purple Finch | All Birds Blog

  2. Pingback: Purple Finch - Wildlife Blog

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