Spring is here, summer is approaching, and insects and other food abound for birds in the Northern hemisphere. Do I need to feed birds? Are there downsides to using my bird feeder in the warmer months?
Let’s address whether feeding birds during spring and summer helps the birds, even though there is plenty of other food available. The answer is a clear yes!
It is true that in warm, wet months, disease is more prevalent among animals, including birds. It is also true that a bird feeder attracts birds into groups, where illnesses are more easily transmitted from bird to bird.
However, despite this, the Journal Conservation Physiology ( https://academic.oup.com/conphys ) found that while illness was a bit more prevalent in the spring and summer among birds with bird feeder access, this was outweighed by the fact that the average health of each individual bird was much improved. If you are inclined, absolutely continue to feed birds year round!
Of course, food, including bird food, spoils or molds much easier in warm weather. Therefore, steps should be taken to avoid this. The easiest step is to feed the birds less food. At most, fill feeders only half way. If you were already feeding less than a full feeder, reduce the amount even further. As soon as you notice spoiled bird food, dispose of it immediately. Suet spoils very easily in the summer, especially home made or raw suet, so be extra careful with suet or save it for the colder parts of the year. Keeping your feeder in a well shaded area is also a great idea for the summer. Lastly, do your best to keep the bird food safe from rain.
Naturally, all that good food may attract more than birds! In the summer, a whole variety of animals are more active and searching for grub. As wildlife varies greatly from place to place, here are three ideas that may help wherever you are located:
- Feed the other animals in your area with food they prefer; for instance, a separate squirrel feeder will help keep the squirrels away from the food intended for birds
- Always store your bird food in durable, sealable containers that can’t be chewed through and won’t get damp
- Squirrel “proof” feeders will protect from a variety of animal bandits, including raccoons
- Bring in your feeders at night if midnight robberies are an issue
In summary, the birds will thank you if you keep feeding them in the summer. Protect the food from spoilage by feeding less, placing the feeders in shaded areas, and keeping the food dry. Store your food in durable, sealed containers. Keep other animals at bay with a series of simple steps such as buying squirrel proof feeders, bringing in the feeders in the evening, and setting out other food that is preferential to the potential bird food thieves.