Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Many Birds Prefer Insects in Summer
July 21, 2023
By Steve Grinley
     The heat and humidity of summer is finally with us. The wet weather in May and June kept the insect population down but with the summer heat, greenheads, mosquitoes and gnats are now going strong in most areas. Many of our songbirds are dependent upon these insects for protein and they welcome the insect explosion to help feed their offspring. Even the tiny hummingbirds feed gnats and mosquitoes to their young. 
     The lack of insects during those wet months had negative effects on many birds. The warmer and, somewhat, drier July should help those insect eating birds as they will need to add much fat before winter or before their southward migration.
     May and June brought many birds to the feeders to supplement their lack of insects. We had up to a half dozen orioles and a pair of catbirds coming to our jelly feeders. We were going through a jar or two of jelly a week. But we have noticed that just in the past two weeks, as temperatures have heated up and insects have become more plentiful, there have been many fewer visits to the jelly.
     Those of us who continue to feed birds have enjoyed the numbers of birds that still visit. And now the fledglings are visiting with their parents. Young orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, house finches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, chickadees and titmice are all starting to visit. Customers who have fed birds into this warmer weather are still enjoying these visitors. Many customers are watching young bluebirds, orioles and Carolina wrens enjoy the mealworms that they are still offering in their feeders.
     More than one customer has asked if they should stop feeding. They may have been told that they shouldn’t feed birds during the summer. There is no reason not to feed birds in the warmer weather. Birds are just supplementing their natural food during the summer months and they don’t become dependent on just your feeders. Neither will their offspring. 
     Feeders provide a source of food that birds will take advantage of when it is there, but they are opportunistic and will turn to natural sources of seed as it becomes available. Also, you see birds in the summer that we don’t get during the winter months and some of our year ‘round birds, such as male goldfinches, are much more brightly colored during the summer months.
     If the birds have suddenly turned away from your feeders completely, it may also be time to give the feeder a good cleaning after all the wet weather we had before.  Wet weather can cause havoc with feeders, allowing mold and mildew to build up in the bottom of the feeder. One customer admitted that some of their seed had sprouted in their feeder – definitely not a good sign! Moldy feeders spread disease and birds will stay away. 
     Now is a good time to check and clean all of your feeders by taking them apart and washing them thoroughly with soap and water.  Add ten-percent bleach to the water if the feeders are particularly moldy. Then rinse, dry them thoroughly, and fill them with fresh seed. You’ll be surprised how quickly the birds return to enjoy a clean meal.
     Also, don’t forget to continue to offer clean, fresh water to the birds this summer. Despite the amount of rain that we had, good clean water will attract many more birds to your yard. Many birds don’t eat seed or visit feeders, but most all birds need water. Adding a dripper, water wiggler, or waterfall rock helps to a bird bath will attract more birds and keeps water from getting stagnant. With moving water and clean feeders, your yard is sure to be an oasis for birds during these hot summer days.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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