Summertime - To Feed Or Not To Feed?

Summertime - To Feed, or Not to Feed. That IS the Question!

(Our hats are off to Shakespeare for bringing this debate to the forefront!)

We are often told "I don't feed the birds during the summer because they have plenty of natural food available." I have two responses to this type of comment.

First, it's important to note that, except in times of extreme drought or heavy snow/ice, research has shown that birds typically get only about 25-30% of their food from feeders. Think about it - birds have survived for countless millennia without mankind providing feeders, even during difficult times. True, during those difficult periods of extreme weather, we probably help some birds survive who otherwise might not, but in general, they don't need us. Birds instinctively get their food from multiple sources so that if one source goes away, they will not starve to death while looking for another. Remember, a bird typically eats just what it needs to survive the next 24 hours, so a single source of food that disappeared could prove fatal.  So, understanding the birds don't really 'need' us, I remind people that the real reason we feed the birds is for our enjoyment - to bring them closer to us. In other words, we 'need' the birds more than they need us.  So feed the birds for your health and well-being, not theirs, and you'll be on the right track.

The second reason I encourage people to continue feeding is that many of the foods we offer them work great for feeding nestlings. Consider that, unlike us, birds eat to survive. Baby birds need to be fed approximately every twenty minutes. Gathering food, then, becomes all about efficiency. Birds are looking for two things when they eat: protein and fat. When we supply a consistent source of high-quality food, this means the parent(s) expend less time and energy searching for food and are able to give their young high quality food more often thus helping to increase their chances of surviving. No-Mess foods such as our Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Seed Blends, Sunflower Hearts, and Shelled Peanuts, and suet products such as our WBU Bark Butter, Bark Butter Bits and Suet Cakes all help provide easily accessed, nutritional food for young birds.

So why wouldn't you feed your birds all year long?  The best arguments then become the false notions that birds will be come dependent upon feeders, or that birds won't migrate like they should if they have ample food sources. As I mentioned, these are erroneous beliefs, but don't just take our word for it. The attached article written for the National Wildlife Federation addresses these issues well. Please take a moment to read and help dispel these myths about bird feeding.

Incidentally, when extreme weather hits - be it drought or freeze - it is typically WATER the birds need as much or more than food! Keep that in mind during the long, hot dog-days of summer AND when everything is frozen over (open water sources may be more difficult to find during a hard freeze than during drought!)

Happy (Year-round) Feeding!