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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

American Robins, at feeder
© George H. Harrison

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, at feeder
© George H. Harrison

Summer Bird Feeding

For whatever reason, people seem to think that the only time to feed birds in the backyard is in fall and winter. The truth is, birds can be enjoyed at feeders the year around, and feeding birds in summer may be even more rewarding than at any other time of the year.

First, we must understand why we feed birds. It is not to help the birds, because they can survive very well without any help from us. A study of Black-capped Chickadees in Wisconsin in winter showed that the birds obtain only 25 percent of their daily diet from feeders, even when feeder food was readily available. Birds are not dependent on us for food, and the only reason to feed them is for our own enjoyment.

Summer feeding of birds gives us even more enjoyment, because the birds are in their breeding plumage, they are often accompanied by their youngsters, and there are species using feeders in summer that are not present in winter. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the East and Black-headed Grosbeaks in the West are good examples. There are hummingbirds and orioles, attracted to sugar water throughout the continent in summer, which are not present in winter. Bluebirds and American Robins, and some woodpeckers and sparrows, are all common feeder birds in summer that are in warmer climates in winter.

So, this summer, feed and water the birds, and see if you donít get an even bigger kick out of the sport than even before.

-- George H. Harrison