Feeding wild birds is one of the best ways to impact the world around you. Simply putting out a bird feeder and keeping it full can greatly improve the survival chances of birds and their offspring. Many believe that birds only benefit from feeders during certain times of the year. However, birds actually have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. The information below will explain each of the four season’s optimal food types and how these options will benefit backyard birds.
Summer is a fun time to feed birds! Baby birds are growing fast, and older birds are enjoying the last few weeks of plentiful food and warm weather before they start their migrations again. Nutritious food is still very much needed during summer, but you can add some fun by offering these foods:
Water is also a necessity for birds in summer. With the soaring temperatures, it is easy for birds to become dehydrated. Placing a birdbath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Please make sure to clean your birdbath regularly in summer to avoid the spread of illness and disease.
Fall is the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall, and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:
- Black oil sunflower seeds
- Nyjer® seed
- Peanuts or peanut butter
- Nectar (hummingbirds need to refuel as well!)
These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months when food sources are diminished.
Winter is one of the most important times to feed birds. Some birds remain in the same location year-round and benefit greatly from the extra food sources offered by backyard feeders. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates or temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high-calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:
- Suet (especially good in winter because of the high fat content)
- Peanuts or peanut butter
- Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as hulled sunflower seeds)
- White proso millet
See also: How to Feed Birds During Winter
Spring is the season when birds return from their winter migration and start nesting. During this time, parents need quick and easy food options that will provide their offspring with essential nutrients for proper growth. Some good options include:
- Seed (especially black oil or hulled sunflower seeds)
- Fruit (especially appealing to orioles if fruit trees haven’t produced fruit yet)
Suet can be offered at the beginning of spring as long as the weather isn’t hot enough to cause the suet to spoil.
No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. These baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you will need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply … and wild birds.