Caring for wild birds in your yard and garden can be enchanting all year long. During the summer months, however, there are special considerations backyard birders should focus on to be sure their feathered friends can thrive.
Why Summer is Special
Summer is the breeding season for most birds, when they are actively nesting and nurturing young. During these months, young, inexperienced birds may be out and about much more frequently, and they are more vulnerable to disturbances and predators. This is exactly when we are often out enjoying our yards and gardens more, but with care, we can enjoy summer days and care for wild birds effectively at the same time.
What Wild Birds Need Most in Summer
While food is often the most common way to attract wild birds to the yard, in summer a steady, reliable water source will be even more attractive to many different birds. As summer temperatures increase, smaller water sources will dry out more quickly, and birds need water for drinking, bathing, and preening. Stagnant water sources are also more dangerous in summer, when warmer temperatures foster algae and bacterial growth that can be toxic, even fatal, to birds.
To provide clean, fresh water to summer birds, add several water sources to your yard. Simple dishes and basins can become easy bird baths, and putting baths at different levels – from sitting right on the ground to hanging from eaves, branches, and awnings – can attract different bird species. Solar-powered bird bath fountains are especially helpful during long, sunny summer days when the sparkles and splashes of the fountain will catch birds’ attention and alert them to an active water source. Moving water is also less likely to harbor insect larvae or grow algae, keeping the fountain or bird bath cleaner.
All water sources should be cleaned regularly throughout the summer to prevent the buildup of algae, mold, and feces that could contaminate the water and be dangerous to birds. Thoroughly rinse the basin to remove any debris, and wash it vigorously with a weak bleach solution or gentle soap to sanitize the bath. Rinse the bath, allow it to dry thoroughly in full sun to break down any remaining bleach or soap residue, then refill with fresh water for birds to enjoy.
Feeding Summer BirdsSummer is a naturally rich season and birds will happily feast on all sorts of natural foods, including insects, seeds, berries, and nectar. This may be a time when backyard birders see fewer birds visiting their feeders, simply because the birds are taking advantage of naturally abundant foods. At the same time, however, parent birds need humongous quantities of food to nurture their hungry hatchlings, and nearby bird families will frequently visit feeders for easy meals. In late summer, birds are also hormonally driven to gain weight prior to migration, making bird feeders an invaluable food source.
To feed summer birds the most nutritious diet…
- Offer a variety of foods to appeal to more bird species, including seed, fruit, nectar, jelly, nuts, and mealworms. Suet can also be offered in the summer, but choose no-melt varieties that won’t soften and spoil as quickly in the summer heat.
- Protect feeders from other wildlife that may be interested in a free meal, such as raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks. Use sturdy baffles to safeguard feeders, and take steps to keep insects such as ants, bees, and wasps away from nectar feeders as well.
- Place feeders in the shade to keep the food cooler and minimize spoiling due to high heat. Shaded feeders will also be more comfortable for birds feeding during the hotter part of the day, and will be easier for backyard birders to enjoy away from the sun’s glare.
- Keep feeders as dry as possible, protected from torrential summer rains. Baffles can help keep seed and food dry, or use mesh or open feeders that will have better air circulation so any damp seed will dry before it might spoil or grow mold.
- Clean feeders regularly with a weak bleach solution to minimize spreading any diseases among feeding flocks. Also wipe down feeder poles, baffles, and popular perches to keep birds safe from bacteria and fungus.
Shelter for Summer Birds
Birds need adequate shelter from summer storms, as well as protection from the vicious heat in the middle of the season and good nesting places to raise their families. Providing deep cover in layered landscaping will give birds a cool place to retreat. Choose a quiet corner to create a thicket-like patch, and minimize pruning in the area so birds feel more secure in the natural environment. Ideally, this patch should be away from active outdoor areas, such as a children’s play set, pool area, or patio or deck so the birds are not disturbed by too much activity. Adding some thorny plants to the patch will also help provide protection from predators, giving birds even more security, and any hollow trees should be preserved if possible so birds can make use of them.
More Tips for Summer Wild Bird CareWater, food, and shelter are the basic necessities of caring for wild birds in any season. To make your property even more bird-friendly during the summer…
- Take steps to minimize bird window collisions by using tape, soap, or decals to break up reflections on glass so birds can see the surface more easily.
- Minimize or eliminate chemical use in your yard, including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, all of which can be toxic for birds, especially vulnerable hatchlings.
- Keep pets indoors or supervise them carefully when they are outside so they cannot disturb or harass nesting birds or young fledglings.
- Stay alert for the signs of nesting birds or young birds just out of the nest, and be ready to offer assistance if a young bird accidentally falls from the nest too early.
- Support local bird rescues and wildlife hospitals so they have the proper funding, supplies, and volunteers to help wild birds in need during the busy summer months.