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The do's and don'ts of feeding garden birds during the summer months

Those of you who have been feeding birds in your garden may have noticed a decline in the number of birds visiting your feeders and bird table.

This is because the birds are shifting from "artificial" food sources like that put out by you to natural food sources such as worms, grubs and newly emerged insects.

This coincides with the breeding season.

I am often asked if it is OK to feed birds all year round and the erroneous story of chicks everywhere choking on peanuts is often retold.

There is no problem feeding birds in the summer.

The weather can often turn wet and windy for a few days making food difficult to find.

It is at these times that birds will fall back on food you have put out in your garden and might be the difference between them dying or surviving to rear their brood of chicks.

There are a number of important points to remember if feeding birds in the summer:

1. NEVER put out whole peanuts!

2. Only put out peanuts in wire mesh feeders. The birds have to break up the peanuts to get them out.

3. Avoid putting out seed or kitchen scraps.

4. Only put out one feeder half filled with peanuts because birds will not eat as much as during the winter.

5. Change the peanuts at least once a fortnight to avoid them rotting in the feeder. Sterilize the feeder with boiling water when changing the peanuts.

Remember the old saying "mother knows best", studies show that seems to be the case for garden birds (mothers AND fathers!) and they will often only eat the peanuts themselves and not feed them to the chicks at all.

There is little or no evidence to show that feeding birds with peanuts in mesh feeders during the summer will cause more harm than good to chicks.

Don't feel obliged to continue feeding birds during the summer but if you want to it should not cause them any harm.

All images and text © Jim Wilson 2001.

© RTÉ 2011
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