Feeding Birds In Summer
Although birds’ natural sources of food are more abundant in the summer it’s still important to keep offering them food in your garden particularly if you live in a very built-up area. Birds need plenty of energy to raise their babies and when they are moulting so extra food will be appreciated and depending on weather conditions they may struggle to find other food.
For example, when it is very hot they may find it difficult to get worms from the ground, one of the most important sources of food for softbills such as blackbirds and robins. Conversely if the summer is particularly wet or cold there can be a shortage of insects and caterpillars.
Birds need high protein foods during the summer, so mealworms, grated cheese and peanuts are ideal. Dried mealworms should be soaked, and peanuts should be crushed so baby birds can’t choke on them. Never feed salted peanuts to birds as the salt is highly toxic to birds and can prove fatal. And although peanut butter is a convenient way of feeding peanuts to your garden birds be aware that it will melt when it is very hot and the oil can cling to birds’ feathers.
Fruit such as apples, grapes, pears and soaked raisins and currants will be popular with thrushes and tits. Chop them up and either scatter on the ground or place on a bird table or in a suet cage or apple feeder.
Bird seed will attract a variety of species. You can either use an all-round mixed bird seed or single-mix seeds such as millet or maize which are popular with house sparrows, or sunflower hearts or niger seed if you want goldfinches to visit your garden.
You can continue to put out your kitchen scraps for birds but be aware in hot weather food can go rancid more quickly so feed little and often. Any very high-fat foods such as suet aren’t suitable during very hot weather, but you can buy specially formulated suet blocks that don’t melt. And don’t put out too much ‘junk food’ such as bread and rice as these foods offer little nutrition for nestlings and juvenile birds.
Make sure bird baths are topped up regularly. You may need to refill them several times a day as not only will birds use them more for drinking and bathing , but also the water will evaporate more quickly.
Bird food hygiene Is particularly important during the summer. Keep feeders in the shade to help prevent the food spoiling and give birds somewhere more comfortable to feed. Check feeders for signs of mildew or infestations and pnly put out enough food that your garden birds can eat in a day to prevent rats and other vermin turning up in the night to take advantage of the leftovers. Make sure you clean bird tables and feeders regularly to remove old food which can attract bugs and other disease. And bird baths should be sterilized often to prevent a build-up of algae and bacteria which can accumulate in stagnant water.
Cats may be more active during the summer so ensure there is somewhere close by that birds can retreat to if they feel threatened. And squirrels will also appreciate the food you are putting out so try using squirrel proof bird feeders or baffles to prevent them stealing it all.
If you do have a problem with unwanted visitors then it may be best to stop feeding birds for a few days. Birds will find somewhere else to feed and the pests will also go somewhere else to forage. Once you put out the feeders again the birds will soon return.
Feeding birds during the summer is important to keep them healthy and it is one of the best times of year for you to observe birds when they are busy bringing up their new families and enjoying the warm weather.