I want to keep in touch with them as they begin a whole new round in their busy lives. Courtship, nest building, egg laying, incubation, young hatching, and finally parents attended by young coming to my feeders, are some of the activities that lie ahead.
The coming of summer brings new guests to the feeders to swell the ranks of the feeding clientele that are still with us. Many of them, including the humming birds, have spent the winter in the tropics or near-tropics. Our guests from the South stay only long enough to nest, raise young and prepare for the return journey. Other of our summer guests will have traveled shorter distances or will have been with us all along.
Instead of doing our bird watching through the window, we are now out in the yard much more.
A much more intimate relationship has developed between ourselves and our feathered clients. We have joined their world.
Two factors need to be considered in connection with summer feeding and the benefits we get from birds taking harmful insects. First, people who feed birds usually also provide for them in other ways. The combined effects of plantings, birdhouses, food and water lead to an increase in the bird populations. Indeed helping birds through any one of these measures can mean more birds in our yards, and therefore more insects being consumed.
Winter and summer feeding complements each other. Birds that otherwise might have strayed off stay with us if we feed through the summer. At the same time, feeding birds in winter is an equally good way to hold onto the loyalty of our summer feeding station clientele. By having a more or less permanent population coming to feeders, we attract migrants and nomadic wanderers. A busy feeding station is the best advertisement we can offer the birds passing through our area.
The one or two pairs (northern cardinals) that hold territory in our yard are the birds we will see at our feeders through the summer. Along with them will be offspring from successive nestings.
Do not become discouraged when the winter sparrows and juncos leave. By continuing to feed, we hold onto the patronage of permanent residents and also win over birds that are beginning to reach us from farther south. If, during our feeding program, we attract birds with dubious reputations, we can either love them, as many say they do, or we can make a few changes in our menu and the types of feeders we use.
By feeding birds throughout the year, we witness an unfolding drama that in early winter begins with courtship behavior. By late spring, our feeders are stages where we see a wide variety of behavior connected with courtship, mating and nesting. Many of the same displays continue through the summer. The final act in this drama is young at feeders being fed and taught how to feed by parents. Still another drama is about to unfold. In many species flocks begin to form and the migratory urge takes hold.
We can always count upon a crowning event of the year… the appearance of young and their parents at the feeders.
We can understand why Elizabeth Doyle in Michigan feels that "nothing is more satisfying and pleasurable in summer feeding than watching cardinals feeding and teaching their young and downy woodpeckers feverishly doing the same."
- The extra food at the feeding station helps insure nesting success and reduces hazards to parent birds.
- People have closer contact with birds in the summer because they spend more time out-of-doors.
Special Problems Associated with Summer Feeding
Fast spoilage of some foods can be a particular problem in the summer. Hot, humid weather is conducive to rapid bacterial and fungal growth. Suet and peanut butter mixtures can become rancid or melt. One tip is to keep suet feeders in your freezer overnight and make them available during the cooler hours of the day. Keep food sources fresh.