This week on our boosting biodiversity series – a series in which we are regularly posting ways in which you can boost biodiversity in your garden – we are discussing how you can support your local birds during the summer months.
Currently, there are more British birds on the Red List than ever before. One in four species that reside in the UK is in serious trouble. The UK’s Red List refers to species which are facing severe declines in populations and need urgent conservation action. Many of these species such as swifts, house martins, lesser spotted woodpeckers, finches, starlings, spotted flycatchers, and more are often found in our gardens. The main causes of such decline are habitat loss and fragmentation which leads to difficulties in finding suitable nesting sites and a loss of natural food resources.
The main causes of such decline are habitat loss and fragmentation which leads to difficulties in finding suitable nesting sites and a loss of natural food resources.
What can you do to help birds during the summer?
During the summertime when the weather can be hot and dry, there can be shortages in natural food resources for birds. This can be dangerous as adult birds are needing food for themselves but also for their chicks at this time of year. Most chicks will be fed primarily with invertebrates such as caterpillars. They are not able to eat supplementary foods that humans often put out for birds. Therefore, it is important to provide resources for adults so that the invertebrates are free for the chicks.
What supplementary foods should I leave out?
- The birds require high protein foods during summer and so only feed selected foods at this time of year. Black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, good seed mixtures without loose peanuts, RSPB food bars and summer seed mixture are all good foods to provide.
- Soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes are also good.
- Avoid using peanuts, fat, and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their chicks.
- Birds usually time their breeding period to exploit the availability of natural foods. For example, earthworms for blackbirds and song thrushes, and caterpillars for tits and chaffinches. However, if the weather turns cold or wet during summer, a severe shortage of insect food can occur, and if the weather is exceptionally dry, earthworms will be unavailable to ground-feeding birds because of the hard soil.
- It is important to also remember to clean your bird feeders regularly. Bacteria can quickly build up on feeders and cause infections. Clean feeders by scrubbing them with hot soapy water and then rinse in cold water and allow to dry before refilling.
What about natural food resources?
If you can, grow more plants that offer natural food for the birds. For example, teasels are famously great food sources for goldfinches.
You can also grow plants that caterpillars and other invertebrates will feed on:
- Shrubs such as hazel, holly, dog rose, blackthorn and ivy
- Trees such as alder, oak, birch, and wild cherry
- Wildflowers such as birds foot trefoil, common rocks rose, dandelion, garlic mustard, clovers
A birdbath doesn’t need to be fancy; any shallow dish of water is great for supporting your local birds. Birds can get most of their water from the insects they eat but when consuming a drier diet, they will need to drink more water. They also need water for bathing in and cooling down on hot days.
It is important to keep the birdbath topped up and clean. Try and clean the birdbath regularly and change the water to prevent the build-up of dirt and algae.
We hope you enjoy these tips and that you can attract and support lots of birds in your garden this summer!