Evening snacking rather than early breakfast seems to be the best option for birds – especially if you want to stay in charge. Research has shown that those birds who build up fat by spending their days eating tend to do less well than those who prefer to eat in the evenings before going to bed.
So why should birds who prefer to eat later do better than those who feast during the day? It seems that the birds who spend their days looking for food are less likely to spot predators and are also less maneuverable wen they are attacked. slimmer birds are more likely to spend the daylight hours looking out for danger and can respond much quicker to threats.
“Natural selection would like to keep a bird as thin as possible, but also have enough fat to get through the night,” said Thomas Grubb, a co-author of the study. “By eating late, dominant birds can reduce their risk of predation without increasing their risk of starvation.”
The question is does being slim get you the top job in a bird colony or is it that being slim is a consequence of being the dominant bird. It seems that the second option is at play. By being dominant you get the best places to hunt for food. This means you can build up the body fat you need to survive the cold night much quicker.
Birds lower down the social structure do not have this luxury. By being forced out of prime feeding places the birds need to spend their days eating and building up fat in case they are unable to eat enough later in the day to survive the night. “It seems that subordinate birds must carry more fat during the day as an ‘insurance policy,’ making them more vulnerable to capture by hawks and other predators,” Grubb said.
Getting a good feed before nightfall is an important survival strategy undertaken by birds as during the night they have to rely on their stored fat to see them through. birds survive the night by going into a self induced hypothermia. By using this mechanism birds lose awareness of the surrounding environment and become less responsive to predators and other threats. By building up energy later in the evening by feeding those birds have more energy available for metabolism and are able to survive the night by not going so far into hypothermia – this means they are much more aware during the night.
So you can help birds to survive the night better during the winer by putting out food in the evening as well as the morning.