Some keen birders will tell you that there is no need to feed wild birds in the summer. They say it will make them lazy, stop them from looking for natural food. They say there is plenty for birds to eat in our gardens and fields at this time of year. You only have to look at the poor blackbirds desperately searching for worms in our bone-dry lawns to know that this isn’t true.
And many scientific studies have found that birds do not become dependent on feeders. In fact, most species will only ever take 25% of their food from humans.
So, feeding birds in summer does them no harm and can be very helpful for them.
In this article we are going to look at why it’s important to feed birds in the summer, what to feed and what to avoid.
Feeding Wild Birds In the Summer
Why is it Good to Feed Birds in the Summer?
- Though we think of cold and snow in winter as limiting food supplied summer weather can do this too. Very hot dry weather can mean crops dry up and insects and worms are hard to come by. A cold wet summer makes foraging difficult for birds and makes fruit and seeds slow to ripen.
- It’s the breeding season. Nest building and egg-laying use up lots of energy, But that’s nothing compared to the effort needed to feed hungry chicks. Many species of bird make up to 100 feeding trips to the nest each day. They tend to offer the chicks wild food. But the food you give them will be a great help in keeping the parents going during this hectic time.
- Summer days are best for bird-watching. During the long days and evenings of summer, you are likely to be spending more time outside and will have more chances to take in the action on your bird feeders. Add to this the chance of seeing chicks, and the extra pleasure of seeing birds in their full breeding season plumage.
What to Feed Birds in Summer
- A good quality seed mix should be the basis of what you offer at any time of year. This will be full of protein, vitamins and minerals. Just what busy parents need.
- Mealworms are great for birds that eat insects and worms, especially in very hot dry weather when these can be difficult to find. They make a good substitute for natural foods that may be in short supply.
- Fat Balls and suet products. High in essential fats that are easily turned into energy. In summer make sure you choose hard, “no melt” varieties to combat ill effects of the heat.
- Fruit. Pieces of apple, pear or banana, or dried fruit soaked in a little warm water will be welcomed by birds in the summer. You can offer them on the ground or bird table, or fill a fat ball cage with them. This will make them accessible to a good range of different species.
- Peanuts. Peanuts are full of protein and fats so ideal for keeping up energy. Crush them up and mix with your seed mix.
What Not to Feed Birds in Summer
There are some foods that are good to feed birds at other times of year, but best avoided during the summer months.
- Whole Peanuts. Lots of birds, including blue tits, love whole peanuts. But they are best avoided during the nesting season. An adult bird will peck away at a whole peanut and get it to a manageable size. A less experienced chick may try and swallow the whole thing which is likely to choke it.
- Soft or home-made fat balls. DIY fat balls are a good way of saving money most of the year. But in the summer months they may melt, or even go rancid. Best to stick to shop-bought “no melt” varieties during the hot weather.
- Junk Food. We would advise against anything other than the smallest amount of bread, cake or pastry at any time of year. But in summer it’s particularly important. During the nesting and breeding season birds need high quality food offering plenty of energy and nutrients. This isn’t a time for them to be getting fat and unfit!
- Anything that might go off quickly. Summer heat can cause many foods to go rotten quickly. Rotten or rancid food can carry bacteria dangerous to birds. Worse, the smell of food on the turn can attract mice and rats. So during the hot months be sure to offer the birds nice, fresh food.
Summer Feeding Tips
To be sure your birds are making the most of the food you offer during the summer follow these summer feeding tips.
- Move Feeders to a Shady Spot. This is our top tip for summer feeding. Birds will appreciate a bit of shade as much as we do in the hot weather. And a shady spot is also likely to provide some protection from summer storms. In the shade food will get less hot. So it’s less likely to go off, become dangerous to birds and possibly attract rats.
- Keep your water dishes well topped up. Water is super-important for birds in the summer, when a drink may be hard to come by, and a bath can cool them down.
- Choose Wire Feeders. If the weather is warm and wet or humid, seed in feeders may quickly become mouldy. Choose wire feeders to avoid this. Or wedge the lid of your plastic feeder slightly open to allow some air to circulate.
- Little and Often. Feeding little and often is good at any time of year. It’s especially important in the summer months to guard against the risk of mouldy bird food. During the summer months we feed twice a day, morning and early evening.
Conclusion: Please keep Feeding Your Birds During the Summer
So we’ve seen in the article how the idea that feeding birds in summer is a myth, not backed up by science. In fact, providing food for birds during the busy nesting season is a very helpful thing to do.
And, as a reward, you get the pleasure of watching the live action at the bird table during the long summer days and evenings.
So don’t delay, lay out that birdie banquet today!
For more information on our native British Birds please visit the RSPB website.
And if you have a question or suggestion we would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment below.