What To Feed Birds In Spring
Birds appreciate food year-round as food shortages can occur at any time, according to the weather. In spring, bird behaviour is quite different as birds are moulting, searching for mates, building nests, and then later rearing young birds.
With that in mind, should you change your bird feed in the spring?
Changing Bird Feed In Spring
Everyone knows to feed birds in winter – cold weather means a shortage of natural foods, but did you know that temporary food shortages can happen at any time of the year? in the UK, spring weather can be unpredictable and have adverse effects on natural sources of bird food, especially insects such as worms and caterpillars.
So yes, although winter feeding is vital, many experts recommend feeding birds year-round to ensure there is always a food source should environmental factors impact bird feeding habits.
However, bird food should be adjusted in the spring to account for bird behaviour and what nutrition they need most at this time of year.
Because spring is a busy time, birds need protein. This is especially important when birds are moulting and preparing to lay eggs. In the wild, this is usually gained from insects, but you can assist birds by providing items such as mealworms. Robins especially love these! Mealworms can be fed dried or live – just ensure you provide a water source if you are feeding dried mealworms.
Another great high protein food, ideal for spring bird food is black sunflower hearts. These are taken by most birds and are a great source of essential nutrients at this time of year.
Remember though it is always best to provide a mixture of bird feed so many species can benefit and to avoid overfeeding on a single type of food.
Are There Any Foods I Shouldn’t Feed In Spring?
Certain foods may not be suitable for spring. As the weather gets warmer fat balls can become an issue as they melt and become rancid faster. Fat balls are excellent for cold weather but don’t hold up so well in late spring and especially not in the heat of summer.
You should also avoid bird feed that doesn’t contain many nutrients like bread. Although bread can be useful at certain times of the year and is a great way to get rid of stale bread, spring is a time where birds need to access nutritious foods to rear chicks, so bread is best avoided. Buy a dedicated bird feed instead.
Do Chicks & Fledglings Eat Bird Food?
This is a question we see asked a lot – as birds build nests and go on to lay eggs and hatch chicks, you may notice birds are still taking food from feeders so might assume they are feeding this to their chicks. However, most birds will not take this type of food home to their nests – they will prioritise feeding their chicks with natural food sources such as insects and use the bird food you provide to refuel themselves.
Isn’t that clever? Although bird food is a great way to help birds with food shortages, they obviously know there is a difference between provided food and their natural diet (which in an ideal world would be the best diet for them to eat all the time)
That said, if a temporary food shortage occurs due to bad weather, birds may resort to taking food home from feeders to give to their chicks. For this reason, it is advised you don’t feed hard, large foods at this time of year. When faced with starvation, a bird will try to feed its chicks with anything it can find. This becomes an issue with large, hard foods that may cause choking.
So, to be on the safe side, provide smaller, easy to eat foods such as chopped sunflower hearts. Later in spring and summer, you may even see fledgelings and young birds coming to bird feeders with a parent to take advantage of these foods.