A song in the children’s movie, Mary Poppins, features a woman selling birdseed crooning, “Come feed the little birds; show them you care.” It turns out, she’s right. Feeding the birds during the winter is a popular pastime which increases the survival rate of our feathery friends. But what about during the summer? There are mixed opinions about that, but more about that later. Whether or not you feed the birds in the summer, everyone agrees that birds need water year round. Wild birds need fresh water to drink and to bathe. Many bird aficionados incorporate birdbaths or ponds in their gardens to meet the birds’ needs. Birds flock to these water features, especially those with moving water. As a bonus, in the summer these water features may attract new baby birds hanging out with their parents.
So water features are a go year round. What about feeding the birds? The Humane Society article Feeding Your Backyard Birds says the only birds we should feed in the summer are hummingbirds and goldfinches. Hummingbirds need nectar in the summer due to their high metabolism. Goldfinches nest later than other birds, so they need nyjer seed in the summer until the thistles go to seed.
Unlike the Humane Society, the National Wildlife Federation offers considerations for feeding wild birds in the summer. The article Summer Bird Feeding: the Case For and Against points out that you might want to feed the birds in the summer so you’ll be visited by birds that don’t live in your area in the winter. It’s up to you to decide whether to take down your bird feeders in the summer.
Lucky for us, Georgia’s winter appeals to a lovely assortment of seed-eating, fruit-eating, and insect-eating birds who look for sustenance in shrubs and trees as well as on the ground. So it’s important to provide different types of food and to use an assortment of feeders if you want to maximize your bird-watching experience.
When it comes to bird feeding supplies, a visit to a specialty bird store can provide valuable information, guarantee fresh seed, and showcase quality accessories. Purchase table-like feeders for ground-feeding birds such as sparrows and towhees. Hopper and tube feeders are best for shrub and treetop species such as finches and cardinals. Suet feeders—for cool to cold weather only—will attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Be sure to buy sturdy, good-quality feeders that are easy to clean. Cats running loose in the neighborhood are the bane of a bird feeder’s existence. Make sure to place feeders out of predators’ reach.
Different types of food will attract a diverse mix of birds. Black oil sunflower appeals to the greatest number of birds. Feeding nyjer/thistle seed is a tasty treat for finches, but be sure it’s fresh; the birds will not eat stale seed. Waxwings, bluebirds, mockingbirds and other fruit/berry eaters enjoy raisins and currants soaked in water overnight and placed on a table feeder. Fill one feeder with peanuts and nuts to attract nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers. When purchasing blends, avoid those with milo, wheat, and oats which do not appeal to most birds. Store the seed in an airtight container to keep it fresh.
Bird feeding and watching can be inspirational and educational. For further reading, the Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware professor’s book Bringing Nature Home and its accompanying website are highly regarded tools to enlighten you about biodiversity, the importance of native gardening, and to move toward biodiversity.
The featured image for this post was taken by Stephanie L’s husband Phil. JoAnn J…woodpecker, Debbie J…brown thrasher, Sherron L…hawk, and Linda B…fledgling nuthatch that they have been watching since the mother built a nest in a birdhouse in their yard… provided the other pictures. As you can see, RGC members love to Feed the Birds…and water them.