I love restocking all of my garden bird feeders. It gives me great pleasure that my offerings contribute to the well being of our feathered friends.
I like to provide a varied diet all year round; that way, my garden seems to attract a wider variety of songbirds.
Whilst rinsing the feeders today, my mind started thinking, what food do birds eat in spring, and should I change what I put out with each season?
The dietary requirements of birds change between seasons. Winter eating is all about trying to keep warm and stay alive. Spring feeding is intense as many birds are battling it out for enough food to get them and their chicks through the mating season.
As the weather starts to warm up, natural food is more readily available. Buds and berries bloom from shrubs and insects are plentiful.
It doesn’t mean we should stop feeding the birds; on the contrary, we should supplement their diet to give them a boost.
Mixed birdseed, soft fruits, mealworms, and peanuts are ideal spring food for birds.
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Springtime for birds
Spring is when birds find their way home following migration; worn out and hungry.Populations increase, there is a greater need for food than ever. Birds need the energy to find a mate, build nests, and to lay and incubate eggs.
When the chicks are born, the adult birds need enough food to feed themselves and their young. Some hatchlings need up to 100 caterpillars and insects daily, and clutches depending on species, vary from 4-14 chicks.
What food can we put out for birds in spring?
Birds that are insectivores eat lots of invertebrates and grubs in spring; they are available in abundance. They seek protein-rich foods with high nutritional value. Live mealworms are an excellent alternative for them.
They are slightly more expensive than dried ones but better for the birds. If you use dried mealworms, soak them in warm water before putting them out; that way they fatten up and a little juicier.
Mixed birdseed – High-quality mixed seed is beneficial to almost all birds, including chicks. More agile birds such as tits, nuthatches, happily eat it from hanging feeders. Ground feeders such as thrush, blackbirds, and dunnocks prefer their food scattered on the lawn or in hoppers.
Soft fruits – Bananas, grapes, raisins, and sultanas are just some of the fruits that provide much-needed vitamins and variety to a bird’s diet. Add small pieces of fruit onto the feeding table and watch the different birds ascend.
If you’re putting out diced apple and pear for them, consider scattering it around the garden. It should avoid any fights and attract different species.
Wrens and tree creepers don’t favour eating from bird tables. Instead, try stuffing fruit into gaps and crevices of trees and fencing.
Eggs – Boiled eggs provide a lot of valuable nutrients to the birds, both young and old. A little eggshell won’t harm them; loaded with calcium so useful for bones and beaks.
Cereal – Soak low-sugar cereal in water before leaving it out for the birds; mine loves crisped rice cereals. Porridge oats are another good idea.
Peanuts – Many birds enjoy peanuts, so they should. They are a valuable source of fats and nutrients. Jays, jackdaws, crows, nuthatches and magpies like whole peanuts and enjoy shelling them. Smaller birds such as robins and blue tits also devour peanuts.
They look inviting when hung on strings and dangled around the garden.
I only ever leave crushed peanuts during spring; I fear a chick might inadvertently choke on a whole nut.
Never hang nuts in those red mesh tubes. Small birds are known to get trapped in them and lose their claws and feet.
The best thing to feed birds in spring
Early spring heralds a busy time for birdlife, a time when they require lots of energy. If you only choose to put out one type of food, go for a high-quality seed or nut mix.
Black sunflower seeds are packed with energy but messy. Sunflower hearts are pre-shelled but slightly more expensive.
Nyjer seeds are tiny, full of nutrients, and ideal for small birds and chicks.
Seed mixes attract finches, especially the highest quality ones that contain lower grain content.
When snow and ice have cleared, the weather is finally getting warmer there is plenty of new plant life to interest the birds. Planting shrubs and bushes is a great way to feed them with little effort. Their buds and berries not only supplement the bird’s diet, but they also attract insects and buds, another food source.
Food that birds eat in spring doesn’t have to be from the garden; we can give them a helping hand. Kitchen scraps such as mild grated cheese and cakes crumbs are an occasional treat.