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Tag Archives: Feeding Wild Birds

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Feeding Wild Birds during the Spring and Summer

In contrast to most everyone I know, I enjoy feeding birds as much in the warmer months as in winter.  The question, sometimes raised, of the possibility of one “taking them away from their role as insect catchers” is far too complicated to address here but is, I can assure you, not a concern.

Hummingbirds, Supreme Aerialists

Warm weather bird feeding offers us the opportunity to observe at close quarters birds that are, in many regions, absent during the winter.  In most parts of the country the magnificent hummingbirds first spring to mind.

These little gems are simply breathtaking…our glass hummingbird feeder can start you on the road to what can easily become a lifelong hobby.  The book Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds  provides valuable guidance on hummingbird-friendly gardens, nectar mixes and species identification.

Insects for Summer Visitors and Winter Regulars

Another simple way to attract summer residents is to supply insects.  This is most easily accomplished by offering freeze dried Wild Bird Mealworms.  Especially if your feeder is located near sheltering trees or bushes, you may be treated to the sight of warblers, orioles, thrushes, catbirds, flickers and other beautiful insectivores gathering food for both themselves and their young.

Chickadees, juncos, sparrows and other seed-eating “winter regulars” raise their young on insects, catching several hundred daily in most cases, and will take advantage of your hospitality as well.

Seedeaters – Generalists and Specialists

Although catching insects for their nestlings and consuming many themselves, many confirmed seedeaters will continue to take seeds, nuts and other such staples year-round.  Our line of wild bird foods  can provide all you’ll need, including specialty mixes for doves and pigeons (which eat seed all year and feed their young with “pigeon milk” derived from the lining of the crop).

An Interesting Observation

Concerning seed-eaters, this spring I was quite surprised to see a male English sparrow (Passer domesticus) feed cracked corn to its newly-fledged youngster (fledglings are fed by parents for several days after leaving the nest)…I had assumed insects to be the sole food provided by adults.

Birding Opportunities

Warm weather bird-feeding usually results in spectacular bird watching opportunities…driven to catch hundreds of insects daily, raise several broods and keep themselves fed as well, parent birds are far less cautious than at other times of the year.

The Backyard Bird Tracker  will help you to identify the birds you see and provides interesting life history details and a place for recording your observations.



Setting out birdbaths within easy reach of your feeders will increase visitation, including by bird species that might not be interested in the foods you provide.  For example, robins, which in most areas are earthworm specialists, will readily make use of bird baths.

Other Steps You Can Take

Setting out birdbaths within easy reach of your feeders will increase visitation, including by bird species that might not be interested in the foods you provide.  For example, robins, which in most areas are earthworm specialists, will readily make use of bird baths.

A well-thought out garden (please see below) will encourage reluctant feeder-visitors to remain and forage on insects, buds and other treats.


Mammals: Flying Squirrels, Gray Squirrels and Bats

Don’t forget your mammalian friends.  Gray squirrels newly emerged from the nest are clumsy and even more entertaining than are adults.  By providing squirrel feeders, corn logs  and peanuts, you can limit competition with avian visitors and provide yourself with quite a show.

If flying squirrels are resident in your area, by all means install some indirect lighting and take a look at your feeders after dark.  These adorable, nocturnal acrobats are quite fearless feeder users…trust me, you will not regret the effort.  Resident even in the heart of NYC, flying squirrels do not reveal themselves in the daytime.  A call to your local zoo or nature center should provide you with information concerning local populations.

While we’re on nocturnal mammals, let me not forget some of my favorites, the bats.  I have rehabilitated a number of injured bats, and never tire of watching their nighttime hunting forays.  A surprising variety of species inhabits the USA, even within most cities…try putting up a bat house and see what happens.

Further Reading

For information on planting a garden that will both attract wild visitors and provide nutritious food for your pets, please see my article Gardening for Birds.

A very interesting field report documenting the huge of insects captured by robins with chicks in the nest is posted at:


Northern Flicker image referenced from Wikipedia commons and originally posted by naturespicsonline.com

Winter Bird Feeding – Rare Bird Update and Some Useful Products

Mountian BluebirdWinter brings with it unique bird-watching opportunities, as cold weather forces otherwise-shy species to visit feeders in search of food.  Rare visitors driven south by severe weather and others blown off course during migration also brighten birders’ days.  Today I’d like to alert you to several new (and standard) bird feeding products, and highlight some ways to see the unusual avian visitors to your neighborhood.

Birding Surprises

Wherever you are located, winter birding is an exciting prospect.  Often, unexpected birds tend to stay put for quite awhile, due to disorientation and the need to remain near a newfound food source.  Checking with the many on-line and telephone services (yes, phone-based reports still exist, check here!) is a great way to remain aware of what’s going on nearby; if luck is with you, you can then go out and see the bird that has been reported. Read More »

Feeding Wild Birds in Winter – High Calorie Foods and Water

Blue Jay with PeanutIn the past I have written about the importance of providing wild birds with salt, grit and other essentials that are sometimes over-looked by folks maintaining bird feeders (please see article below).  Today I’d like to highlight high-calorie foods and water, both of which become increasingly important as temperatures drop.

How Do They Cope?

I’ve always wondered how birds, which seem so fragile in some ways, managed to cope with frigid winter temperatures.  The point was brought home to me when I cared for outdoor bird exhibits at the Bronx Zoo. I would arrive at 5 AM, and shuddered to see birds such as Bald Ibis and Indian Peafowl (which I associate with warm climates) sound asleep while covered in snow.  Read More »

Homemade Holiday Treats for Pet Birds (and Their Wild Cousins)

Pine Cone Treat A variety of nutritious holiday bird treats are very simple to create, and offer the added advantage of keeping your pets occupied and engaged (a plus for you and them!).  The ingredients of those listed below can be modified to suit pets ranging from finches to macaws, and outdoor visitors of all sizes and shapes.

Stuffed Pine Cones

Pine cones are an old holiday standby for both pet and wild birds, and are used in zoo enrichment activities as well.  What’s more, they offer one of the quickest options for those beset with holiday chores (or, should I say, other joyous activities!).  Simply jam the pine cones’ nooks and crannies with natural peanut butter, and roll in dried fruit, seeds, nuts, crushed popcorn or other goodies.  Read More »

Useful Tips and Products for Feeding Wild Birds this Autumn

Birds at FeederAutumn is a time of great anticipation for those who feed and watch birds, and surprising sightings are not limited to remote locales – a Snowy Owl once spent a few hours on the roof of my childhood home in the Bronx, and I’ve counted over 200 species on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.  Resident birds begin to feed ravenously in preparation for the lean times ahead, and different northern migrants appear each week.  Today I’d like to highlight some foods and feeders that will help ensure that you see all there is to be seen in the coming months. Read More »

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