For the Birds: Helping birds this summer

Photo by Chris Bosak A young pileated woodpecker knocks on a fallen tree trunk as it looks for insects, Danbury, Conn., summer 2019. Dead trees are valuable to birds as homes and food sources.

It may be early in the summer season, but it seems like a good time to prepare for the hot days ahead.

Here are some things you can do to protect and help birds this summer:

Feeding hummingbirds is one of the great joys of summer in New England. No matter how many times they have visited already, it is always a thrill to see one land on your feeder, or better yet, feed from flowers planted in your yard. It is important, however, to keep the sugar water fresh and the feeder clean.

Sugar water should be changed every couple of days during hot weather. It can be a bit cumbersome, I know, but it is worth the effort as it keeps the birds happy and safe. Also, sugar water should be made with four parts water and one part sugar, and that’s it. No red dye. It’s unnecessary and potentially harmful to the tiny birds.

Similarly, other birdfeeders should be cleaned regularly as well. Hot, sticky weather is conducive to bacterial growth and we want to keep our birds healthy and disease-free. Cleaning the feeders takes a little effort, but again, it is worth it to prevent the birds from getting sick. Let’s not forget that it was just last year that a mysterious disease was killing birds and people throughout much of the U.S. were asked to stop feeding birds for a while. The feeding ban has been lifted, but to my knowledge, they still haven’t figured out what caused the birds to die.

Also, cleaning birdfeeders can help prevent the spread of bird flu, which has also been making headlines as of late.

Be careful about offering suet in the summer as well. Hot temperatures can make the suet go bad and potentially make birds sick.

Adding a birdbath to your yard offerings is a great way to attract more birds. Like the feeders, however, they must be kept clean, particularly during summer. Water should be changed daily and a good scrubbing every few days will keep the birds coming back.
There is still time to add some native plants to your landscape. Add a few bunches of coneflower or some other native plants and you’ll be providing birds with a meal once the flowers dry up in the fall. Native insects rely on native plants and those insects are also food for birds. Planting native flowers, shrubs and trees is just good practice anyway for many reasons.

Skip the chemical pesticides and herbicides as they can be harmful to birds and other wildlife as well. Give a natural solution a try. They are readily available at stores and online.
Do not trim bushes or have live or dead trees removed until the fall. Those bushes could be holding a nest or be the go-to hiding spot for a family of birds. Likewise, those trees slated for removal could have nests, either among the leaves in a live tree or in the cavities of dead trees. Dead trees are also a terrific source of food for birds. For birds such as woodpeckers, taking down a dead tree is like a favorite restaurant being razed.

Finally, simply enjoy the birds and share your appreciation and passion with others. The more people who are interested in birds and nature, the better.

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