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To Feed or Not to Feed…

…that is the question

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch (GBW) team often get asked during the summer whether, or not, to continue feeding garden birds. The answer is yes; the BTO’s advice is to feed all year round as garden birds may struggle to find food at any time of year.

Historically, we only fed the garden birds in the winter when the weather turned cold. However, in the summer birds have the challenge of finding enough food for themselves and their chicks. Feeding the birds during the breeding season allows adults to utilise supplementary foods such as sunflower seeds for themselves, freeing up precious natural invertebrate food for the chicks.

Make sure the food that you are providing is suitable to the season – in the summer, it is best to avoid whole loose peanuts in case the parents try to feed them to their chicks. Investing in live foods such as mealworms can be beneficial.

Bear in mind that prolonged chilly or rainy conditions can make it hard for birds to find natural food, even in the summer, and at times like these additional food supplies can make all the difference to parents feeding a nest of hungry chicks. At the end of the breeding season most adult birds will completely replace their feathers in their annual moult, at which time good nutrition is particularly important.

However, while feeding does benefit garden birds overall, garden feeding stations can potentially add to the spread of disease.

Fortunately, there are simple measures you can take.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team commented, "We regularly receive enquiries about preventing disease from spreading in gardens. The GBW handy guide to disease and hygiene has useful suggestions on how to clean your feeding stations, the different types of disease that are common in garden birds and what to do if you find a sick bird in your garden."

4th July 2014