As spring bulbs start to peak through the soil, you know that spring is well and truly on it’s way. That means a flurry of activity with wild birds in your garden as they start to mate and nest build. This also means you should change what food you put out for your wild birds as they will soon have chicks to feed.
Spring is an exciting time in the garden as life starts to take shape once again after a cold and wet winter. Many people ask ‘should you continue to feed wild birds in the spring’ and the simple answer is yes! A simple seed mix will be perfectly fine and enjoyed by all garden birds in the spring. However there is also a few things you might want to avoid, especially once small chicks start popping up.
Here are our top 5 Spring feeding suggestions :
This blog will run through what bird seed you should be feeding wild birds, suggested seed mixes, and also what to try and avoid.
Feeding wild birds in the spring is important as it helps give birds plenty of energy during a busy season of survival. Many birds will have returned back to the United Kingdom after a long migration, so need to replenish energy and fat stores. They will also need to find a mate and build a nest so it is vital that you keep feeding wild birds during spring.
As spring is a busy time of year for birds, it’s important that you are prepared. Make sure your feeders and bird tables are nice and clean, ready for fresh seed. If you can, put out a bird bath and give it a good scrub. It’s much easier to keep them clean throughout the year this way, and helps prevent any migratory birds picking up an illness.
In early spring, you can’t go wrong with a high quality mixed bird seed. You can get some especially formulated for Spring & Summer, with a mix of sunflower hearts and peanut granules. This kind of bird mix will attract all kinds of birds in after a cold winter. Food can still be scarce especially if winter hangs around a bit longer, so keeping suet out will be welcomed by birds. This high energy food will also help new arrivals from migration recover before mating season kicks into gear. If the weather is cool then you can put out suet and this will provide a much needed boost of energy, however as the weather warms up this can melt and go rancid. As it softens, it can also smear on a birds feathers which may prevent them from staying waterproof.
As spring really gets going, you can feed soft fruits such as apples, bananas and grapes. Raisins and sultanas are also appreciated by garden birds. When feeding soft fruit, it’s important to keep the feeding area clean to avoid rotting food when the sun decides to make an appearance. Black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal and seed mixes without loose peanuts are also good things to add to your feeding table.
Towards the end of spring, start adding mealworms to your feeding table. Birds need a bit more substance around May, and mealworms are the perfect food to provide this, as well as being a favourite. For many garden birds, the majority of their diet is made up with insects, meaning they are insectivores. Supplying mealworms at this time gives them a real boost of energy and protein. These can be live or dried mealworms, but usually the preference is for dried, especially if you are a bit squeamish! As young chicks hatch, it is better to soak dried mealworms, or crush them help to help prevent choking.
Spring is when birds start mating, making homes, and laying eggs. Parent birds will be feeding their new chicks almost constantly until the chicklets are large enough to fledge the nest. This should be taken into consideration when putting out food for wild birds. Whole peanuts brought back by a parent may be too big for a young bird and choke them. A great alternative is peanut granules which are small enough to avoid choking. Other foods to avoid are anything dry and hard as well as large chunks of bread and fats. By avoiding putting these food items back, you can be confident that anything a parent bird takes back to the nest can be digested by chicks and fledglings.
Wild and garden birds time the breeding period around what natural foods are easily available to them. Blackbirds and song thrushes look for earthworms, and tits and chaffinches go after caterpillars. Should the weather change and become wet/cold, this can cause a shortage of these foods. Conversely, if the weather becomes very dry, ground feeders looking for worms will struggle due to the hard dry ground. To help with this, foods with bugs, mealworms, calci worms and other buggy bits will be much appreciated by your visiting birds.
You can put a nest box up at any time of year. It is often preferable to put one up during spring or summer as the weather is nicer to spend the time outside doing handy work and DIY. However, there is no guarantee that a bird will move in straight away. Often a bird box will need to be in place for at least a year before welcoming its first residents, although you might get lucky!
Be sure to position any bird feeders away from nest boxes and nesting sites. Predatory birds can be drawn in by the promise of food, and then explore surrounding areas in which they discover young chicks in nests.
Do you have a particular mix of wild bird food you feed in the spring, such as Mealworms and Suet Pellets? Let us know in the comments!