As UK heatwave hits make your garden cool for birds

Jasmine Granton

Thursday 28 June 2018

As World Cup fever hits an all-time high and local parks start to fill up with youngsters dreaming of becoming the next Harry Kane or Jesse Lingard, it’s really starting to feel as though the British summer time is in full swing.

Although occasionally disappointing, the summer weather hit new heights on Monday as thermometers soared past the 30°C mark – making it the hottest day of the year. With the scorching heat expected to last until the weekend, spare a thought for wildlife when you’re firing up the BBQ and cracking open a few cold drinks. 

While we revel in the warm temperatures, it can have a devastating effect on many of our favourite garden birds like robins, blue tits and blackbirds. The extreme heat can cause many water sources in the countryside to dry up, meaning birds will desperately be searching for a new source.

Unlike us humans, birds lack the ability to sweat, meaning they have developed their own, fascinating mechanisms to keep cool during the arduous conditions. Birds need fresh water to drink – but also to bathe in. Taking a dip in water and shaking the drops through their feathers doesn’t only help to keep their feathers clean, but also cools them down.  

If you have a birdbath, keeping it topped up with fresh water can be a life saver for our feathered friends, but if you don’t, there are many other simple things we can all do in our outdoor space to help. 

Creating a mini pond in your garden has many benefits for nature. Not only can it be exciting to see pond skaters, water lice (like long-legged underwater woodlice), freshwater shrimps, and if you’re lucky, a few damselflies darting around the water, it can also double up as a bird bath. A mini pond can be made with an old washing up bowl and be really simple to make. Find out how here.

Another way to get your garden birds through the heatwave is putting out supplementary food as the hot weather may mean natural supplies, like worms, become scarce. We all know that in the winter time we need to feed birds but it’s important throughout the summer too. 

In winter, supplementary food is often the only option for birds as natural food sources like berries get buried under snow and ice and insects are few and far between. But in summer birds will still be grateful for extra treats, as many are busy raising their young. Little and often is the best way as birds probably won’t eat quite as much as during the colder months and food left out in the heat can become rotten and cause more harm than good.

Don’t score an own goal with your bird care this summer – follow these simple Do’s and Don’t to take your wildlife garden to glory:

  • Do continue to feed your garden birds! Temporary food shortage can occur at almost any time of the year, and if this happens during the breeding season, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young.
  • Do put out black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds, good seed mixtures without loose peanuts.
  • Do ensure there’s a good supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. A nice splash in some cool water 
  • Don’t use peanuts, fat and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their nestlings. If you feel you must put out peanuts, only do so in suitable mesh feeders that will not allow sizeable pieces of peanuts to be taken, reducing the choking risk to chicks.
  • Don’t put out home-made fat balls as these can go soft and rancid in warm summer weather, and should be avoided. Commercially produced fat bars are suitable for summer feeding but discard any remains after three weeks.
  • Don’t leave food out too long and be sure to keep an eye on rotting food. Hygiene is extremely important when it comes to feeding your garden birds, especially in the summer. 

Last Updated: Friday 6 July 2018

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Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Garden birds Topic: Giving Nature a Home