Some birdwatchers take a break from feeding their backyard birds during summer. They do this because they don’t believe birds need help in the summer like they do during cooler months. However, the summer months are a critical time to feed birds, as most species are raising their young and preparing for the daunting task of migration.
Conservationists agree that even with their intuitive instincts, backyard birds can use a little assistance during the summer as they prepare for two of their most energy-expending cycles: breeding and migration. These six simple tips are a few other ways to help your backyard birds during the hot summer months.
1. Provide a Source of Water
A source of water is vital for both hydration and bathing for your backyard birds. A birdbath is a simple means of providing both. In order to provide water for large and small species, consider a birdbath with different depths. A deep basin will discourage small birds to bathe, but this can be solved easily by adding a layer of river stones to control the depth of the bird bath. On the other hand, a bath that is too shallow will dry out very quickly on those hot summer days. If your bath becomes a busy spot for your backyard birds, you’ll find it will need to be replenished more regularly. Move your bird bath to a shady area in your back yard. On those extremely hot days, adding a chunk of ice to the bath will help keep the water cooler longer.
Going a step beyond the birdbath, consider adding a moving water feature as these tend to attract more birds to your backyard. Splashing sounds and the reflections from moving water will always catch a bird’s eye. Another benefit of adding a moving feature to your bird bath is that the splashing of the water slows down the growth of bacteria and algae. It also discourages mosquitos looking for still water to lay their eggs. Running water minimizes the risk of illnesses and helps keep your backyard birds healthy throughout the summer.
2. Offer a Shady Respite
Just as you might seek out a shady break from the hot summer sun, shade is important for birds as well. Adding tiered landscaping to your yard with broad-leafed native plants is one way to provide cool, shaded respite for your backyard birds. Vegetation around tree trunks or at the sides of a structure in your back yard, such as a shed, offers additional shelter. Native trees, vines, shrubs, and plants offer not only shade, but shelter and nourishment for backyard birds. These are perfect spots to protect birds from the heat. They also do double duty by providing protection from predators.
Place a feeder or two in shaded areas to give birds a cool spot to eat as well as keep oily seeds from spoiling as rapidly. Most importantly, move bird houses to shady locations and make sure they have adequate ventilation holes to provide cooling air circulation—especially vital for nestlings. Keep in mind that many species of birds may not be comfortable nesting close to busy feeding stations, so maintain some distance between the two.
3. Leave Baby Birds Alone
It’s not uncommon to find a baby bird out of its nest in the summer. Many people make the mistake of picking the nestling up and bringing it inside. If you find a nestling out of the nest, it’s best to leave it where it is. Most times the parents are nearby and know best how to care for their chick. The one exception to this is an injured bird. In this instance, you can take the bird to your local wildlife rehabilitation center to be treated and released.
4. Let Nature Take Over
Across most suburban areas, it’s not uncommon to see homeowners mowing and trimming their property. A meticulous, landscaped yard is considered by some, the gold standard. During the summer months, consider letting nature take its course in at least part of your yard. Let the plants and grasses grow wild. Refrain from trimming back the bushes. Let the native plants grow with abandon. Even a small, wild area like this will offer your backyard birds a source of food and shelter during the hot summer months. In turn, you will have the reassurance that you are not disturbing nesting birds. Grass left uncut also offers nesting grassland birds a haven as their young prepare to take flight.
5. Skip the Pesticides
Consider skipping the pesticides this summer. Sadly, even products labeled ‘safe’ have negative consequences for birds. A common ingredient found in many garden products, neonicotinoids, have been linked to the deaths of birds and bees, even in the smallest amounts. If you must use pesticides, check a list of products found on the Center for Food Safety’s website to see which products pose the least danger to your backyard birds. You can also talk to your local conservation center or Audubon Society about natural alternatives, or concoct your own mixture using natural products.
See also: How to Grow a Bird-Friendly Garden
6. Celebrate Life’s Milestones, but Forget the Balloons
Summer is a popular time for celebrations, with many people planning weddings, birthdays and graduation parties. When you make up your list of party supplies, think about your backyard birds before adding balloons to it. While these shiny, whimsical decorations are fun for adults and children alike, often balloons end up floating away from backyards. These stray balloons pose severe dangers to birds who, often become entangled in those long colorful ribbons at the end of the balloon. Tragically, birds have been found asphyxiated by the ribbons. When balloons deflate or burst, birds can ingest the balloon or pieces of the balloon. These latex pieces end up blocking the bird’s digestive tract, resulting in the bird starving to death.
See also: Tips for Safely Feeding Birds in Summer
Featured image made with graphics from Vecteezy.com