The Suitcase Lady


February 2, 2010, 10:30 pm

A recent scientific study revealed what every backyard birder already knows: Many birds love black oiled sunflower seeds. Apparently birds are no different from us mammal types. We all head for the fat and protein.

But, unfortunately for us, we are big. Science also informs us that “small animals have faster metabolisms relative to their body size than do large animals.” Birds must consume enough to fuel metabolism that can require up to 10,000 calories a day. That would be equivalent to 155,000 calories a day for us.

I might want to be a bird. Not only could I fly without the aid of Midwest Express, I could also eat huge quantities of butter, cheese, pecan pie, hot fudge sundaes and pasta with mizithra to no ill effect. But there is a caveat. A University of Wisconsin study of black-capped chickadees discovered that birds with unlimited access to feeder food still obtained 79% of their daily energy needs from wild sources. Therefore, I couldn’t simultaneously be a bird and a couch potato… I would have to burn fuel to get fuel.

Winter would present another challenge when a bird’s food needs can increase twenty times. With requirements like this, stuffing one’s beak could get downright tedious.

Recent research also informs us that birds “mostly taste umami, a Japanese term for one of the five basic tastes, in this instance a taste for protein. In other words, birds are able to judge the protein content of seeds and drop the low protein seeds onto the ground below feeders, much to the delight of squirrels, raccoons and other quadrupeds.

All things considered, I think I’ll stick with my 2,000 a day calorie limit. A leisurely dinner in front of a warm fireplace seems like a pretty good deal.

6 Comments for this entry

  • Thelma Friedman

    Dear Mary & Russ: This time you send me to google to hopefully find what is “mizithra’. After all these years you anticipated my question and before I could go there. Wikipedia appeared with the answer. Now I recall this appears in my favorite white Greek cheese recipe I make and keep on hand. Is Russ the man who ordered it from Sendiks in Mequon and took an entire wheel during the holidays? The cheese expert there knew at once when I was there. She said, as does the recipe, that ricotta is fine as a sub. I need spell check here and everywhere.

    Miss you and send you my love as always

  • LoieJ

    Interesting! (I thought I left a comment, but it disappeared.)

  • Mary

    Thelma! We always have Pasta with Mizithra at our favorite Spaghetti Factory Restaurants. My son and I regard this as our favorite pig out food. The sauce is burnt butter. The nearest Spaghetti Factory to you is either Minneapolis or Indianapolis. They are always in rehabbed, old historic buildings.

  • 8\\\\

    My husband is an avid birder. We have a pile of husks from black oiled sunflower seeds in our backyard. What fun to watch the birds & squirrels enjoy their treat! The circus begins when the neighbor’s dog tries to climb our tree & catch one of the six frisky squirrels.

  • evie

    Mary–I don’t believe you consume 2,000 calories a day! But never again will I think you eat like a bird!
    Enviously, evie

  • Mary

    Eve! I absolutely do get my 2,000 calories a day! I make very sure that I don’t miss even one. I am a great fan of Diane Ackerman’s book, A Natural History of the Senses.