Seasonality guide to feeding wild birds
Food shortages, surprisingly, can occur at any time of the year not just winter. By feeding birds in your garden all year round you can help prevent food shortages whenever they might occur. Furthermore throughout the year a bird’s feeding habits and diet changes. If you adapt to this you can help ensure a good standard of wellbeing for any birds that visit your garden. We have taken a look at the four seasons and how you should adapt feeding patterns, diets and the environment to suit a bird’s needs and requirements.
A common misconception amongst bird feeders is that if they provide a lot of food during the winter autumn months then the birds will become accustomed to such a great life and will not want to migrate on time. Once the feeder runs out then it will be too late to make the journey and they could perish in the harsh conditions of the journey. This is simply not true. It is other factors such as climate and day light that can affect the migration period. Providing food can give the birds energy to reach their destination on time and in good health. Furthermore food can also be useful for birds who are not residents of the area but passing through on their migration journey. By providing feeding during the winter you can also help birds return to the same area during the spring months.
Other tips in the autumn months include letting foliage such as leaves and sticks in your garden and not removing them. This provides shelter and vital insects. Also check feeders are protected, repaired and safe from heavy summer time use.
During winter you should aim to feed birds at least once a day. During periods of exceptional harsh weather it has been recommended to feed birds twice daily. During these months birds require foods that are high in fat so they can survive the freezing nights and also frost. Always adjust the supply to the demand. If you find that by the end of the day all the food is gone then maybe provide more. On the other hand if there are foods left over then remember to clear this away as hygiene is of upmost importance.
Try to place feeds near the house and protected from harsh winds. Feeds should not be so close to windows and around 5 meters away to avoid collisions.
Due to natural foods being harder to get during the winter months, birds will take to feeders more avidly. These will need to be cleaned regularly as mould and mildew on the food can build up and with a large amount of birds visiting this can prove a hygienic hazard.
Where foods may be scarce in the winter for birds, the same is true of other animals such as squirrels and stray cats. Make sure you provide ample protection of the food and birds from these animals especially the predators.
You may alsowant to provide a heated bird bath in the winter to provide water rather than ice that birds can drink.
Spring is vitally important for birds. Many will have made migration journeys and winter supplies will be low. They also have an important set of tasks ahead of them such as claiming territory, mating seasons and building nests and to raise their young.
Birds will often try to time their breeding seasons around when natural foods are most available such as earth-worms and caterpillars. Weather that is particularly wet or cold will have an impact on insects and thus birds. Weather that is exceptionally hot will make the soil hard and thus harder for birds to reach earth-worms. Pay close attention and provide ample food when required.
Be careful with the type and size of food you give. For example whole peanuts are not only bad but can choke a chick to death. The same goes for large chunks of bread, fats and dry hard foods. These should be avoided in the spring and summer months.
Try to avoid foods contaminated with insecticides as birds not only love insects but they are perfect for nutrition. You may also look at providing a source of water as you are likely to attract birds that are not interested in feeding.
If you want to go the extra way then you can provide nesting materials in the hopes that a bird may want to setup their base near to your home.
During the summer months you should aim to feed also. Hygiene in these months is even more important as during the summer weather bacteria can increase with the warm conditions. Unhygienic feeding can produce more harm than good in this respect. It is advised that instead of high fat food, birds should have high protein foods. Fruits such as apples, pears and bananas cut in half can provide sources of nutrients.
You want to avoid using foods such as peanuts, fats and bread at this time as these can be passed on to a birds nestlings. Unfortunately in the summer months other animals may try to steal foods left out such as rats, mice and deer. You will want to be vigilant and protect against this.
If birds are fed properly during the summer months then as a bird-watcher you will have more hours of sunlight to view birds entering your garden and you may have an opportunity to watch birds raising their families and watch nestlings mature.
Make sure feeders are kept in the shade as birds are likely to feed longer thus stay longer. Try to keep cats indoors as much as possible as this can protect ground feeding birds and also new nestlings that are beginning to explore.