Summer bird feeding

 

There's lots of value – and fun – to be had from feeding your garden birds in winter. But if you thought it was exclusively a winter activity, think again! We now know that there is still much value in continuing to play chef through the summer, and I don’t have a day when I don’t put at least some food out.

While it’s true that there’s more natural food for the birds in the summer months, there are also a lot of young birds around, hungry mouths to feed. Finding enough nourishment can be a struggle in long periods of hot weather, especially for those birds that like to probe around in the soil. In the dry conditions, worms and other creepy crawlies keep themselves well hidden, and the ground is too hard for beaks to penetrate.

So, at the same time as we like our barbecues and al fresco dining in the nice weather, remember to provide the perfect picnic for your garden birds, too.

Top tips

If you haven’t fed birds in your garden before, I think the best way to start is with a simple hanging feeder containing sunflower hearts or a high-energy seed mix.

It will need to be hung out of reach of cats, and in a place where birds will feel safe visiting it. Dangling from a tree branch is ideal, especially if that gives birds ‘stepping stones’ down from higher branches.

An alternative is to fix a hanging basket hook to a fencepost, but again think about how the birds will make their way to the feeder in stages, and where they will be able to beat a quick retreat to if they feel threatened. I often get contacted by people who can’t work out why no birds visit their feeders, but moving it to a better location often solves the problem.

Do bear the following rules in mind to ensure that your efforts are really helping rather than a hazard to birds.

Golden rules

  1. Only put out as much food as is taken every day or two, because food can quickly go off in the hot weather. It's good to start by just putting a little bit of food out until the birds get used to it being there.
  2. You may want to feed in a way that only allows the smaller birds to get to the food, such as by using guardian feeders which sit within a wire cage, or by using Squirrel Buster feeders whose feeding ports close when larger birds or squirrels try to use them.
  3. Maintaining good hygiene at your feeding areas is essential, both by clearing up any spilt or uneaten food, and by disinfecting feeders and tables to stop the spread of the various diseases that afflict garden birds.

Do all this and your efforts are likely to help more birds make it through to the winter in a strong and healthy condition.

What to look for on summer feeders

  • On feeders: blue tit, great tit, house sparrow, goldfinch, starling
  • Feeding on the ground below: blackbird, dunnock, robin, wood pigeon, collared dove, starling
  • If you’re lucky: chaffinch, great spotted woodpecker, coal tit, greenfinch, long-tailed tit