I am writing this this morning while watching the rain--it is such a joy to see water. Those of you in this area know how severe our drought has been.
A few days ago I wrote about the end of this year's Project Feederwatch season. The end of the season also marks the end of winter bird feeding for me. It would be different if I lived further north--I would probably keep all of my feeders up another few weeks.
However, that doesn't mean I don't continue to feed the birds in the summer; I feed all year around. It does mean I don't have to spend as much money supporting my birds. I took down one suet feeder, one platform feeder and two tube feeders. That still leaves one suet, two platform (although I'll put only half the food out as usual) and one tube feeder. I also add a hummingbird feeder in the summer. After all, I still like to watch the birds and an easy meal is never turned down by busy parents. I have been noticing fewer visitors to my feeders over the past couple of weeks. In part this is due to more insects being available and in part because breeding birds are beginning to lay out their territories.
Most importantly, especially in this drought, provide water. Although you cannot use treated water outside under our drought restrictions, if you collect rain water or use greywater (from your shower only,) you can continue to put out water for your birds.
People sometimes ask why reduce food when the birds have babies to feed in the summer? Most babies are fed insects. Baby birds grow at a phenomenal rate and insects are high in proteins and fat. Most adult birds also change the composition of their diet in the summer, switching to a higher proportion of insects as insects are usually plentiful at this time of year and parents need a quick meal on the go. Cardinals eat about 1/3 insects and 2/3 vegetation (including seeds) although they feed their young almost 95% insects.
That isn't true of all of our birds, of course. The diet of house finches seems to stay at 97% seeds and plants all year long. So they'll be regular visitors to my sunflower feeder all summer. And of course our doves eat seeds all year around. Not that the Eurasian collared doves and white-winged doves in my neighborhood couldn't afford to go on a diet.
The best bird feeding is what birds get from native plants and the insects that feed on them. I haven't put in as many plants as I have wanted to the last few years because of the drought. But I continue to put in one or two every year.
Please don't spray poisons in your yards. Not only does it reduce the number of insects, but those insects in your yards are full of poisons, and are then fed to baby birds. Lots of birds is a good way to keep insects under control. Besides, we are all going to be sorry when the pollinators are gone.
So continue to enjoy your birds as the summer approaches. If you put up some bird houses or provide other suitable habitat with trees, shrubs and vines, perhaps you'll have the good fortune to watch a brood grow up.