Where have all the garden birds gone?

Thursday 15 July 2021

In August garden birds suddenly seem to disappear. You might well be wondering – why?

In spring and early summer the air is saturated with birdsong. First, in April and May, there is the dawn chorus - birds simply bursting with song. Then, a month or so later, the chorus is joined by the clamour of hungry fledglings as their parents rush to keep up with the morning feed.

And then August arrives, and the birds suddenly seem to disappear. The air that was brimming with bird song has a sudden hush. You might well be wondering – why?

Mistle thrush fledgling. Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)


They’re keeping themselves safe

The first reason that birds are less visible in the summer is that they are growing a new set of feathers, which can be very draining and make it harder for them to fly. This means that for a few weeks they are much more vulnerable to predators and territorial birds. To stay safe, they keep as quiet as possible and hide themselves away.


There’s more natural food available

Secondly, in late summer grain, berries, and fruit are more readily available so the birds don’t need to rely on your bird feeders quite as much.

In areas where farmland is nearby, for example, house sparrows, starlings and many finches move out to fields to feast on the abundance of grain before it is harvested, and on the spilt grain after the harvest. Even in cities, sparrows and finches are attracted to any piece of rough ground that provides a good crop of weed seeds, and blackbirds and song thrushes tend to move to where there is an abundance of fruit or berries.


How can I attract them back to my garden?

Keeping a little food in your feeders over the summer will remind your regulars that you’re still open for business and provide a welcome food source to passing birds.  When summer fades away and food sources start to dwindle, the birds will remember where your feeders are and come flying back, bringing your garden to life. 

Jay on garden feeder. Alison Garwood (rspb-images.com)

Just make sure that the food remains fresh so it doesn’t start rotting, or become a carrier of diseases. To minimise food waste, try putting in just a little bit of food at a time and changing it frequently.

You can also provide lots of ‘natural’ food and water sources right in your garden! Try leaving piles of leaves or putting out insect hotels to encourage bug life, planting greenery such as rowan or holly that will produce berries in the colder months, or putting out water so they have something to drink and clean their feathers with.


Where can I find more information?

For more tips and ideas on how to make your garden a haven for birds and other wildlife, please visit Nature on Your Doorstep. You can also ask questions and learn from others in the Nature on Your Doorstep community.

Last Updated: Thursday 15 July 2021

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