Attract and Support Wild Birds in Summer
By having a few basic elements—water, food, shelter—in your yard, you can help support our wild birds through the heat of summer. You’ll also have a front row seat to see birds at their best! From nesting parents feeding, to their awkward juveniles learning how to use your feeders and bird baths—don’t miss out on the fun.
All wild birds require fresh water to drink and to bathe. This is important year round! (Even in winter! See our page about Wild Birds, Winter and Water.) During a drier season, other water sources may dry up or stagnate, so our backyard bird baths are critically important for local birds. Once they discover your water source, keep it going! Your visitors will return! With friends!
Bonus! A bird bath or water feature will give you more chances to see non-seed eaters in your backyard, like the American Robin and Eastern Bluebird in the video, but also Orioles, Thrushes, Vireos, Warblers, etc.
A few special tips about bird baths:
How to choose a bird bath.
Think shallow! Birds don’t swim! (Except for ducks, duh.) Two to three inches is perfect. If it’s deeper than 2″ add a flat rock or two to give birds safe choices.
More water, more birds! If there’s a traffic jam at your bird bath, add another one! They will LOVE it.
Where to place bird baths.
Make it easy on yourself. Make sure your garden hose is handy and reaches your bath for easy filling and rinsing.
Putting your bird bath in a shady spot will slow down evaporation and help keep the water cooler.
Location, location, location! Place your bird bath where it’s visible from your favorite window and where there is some protective cover nearby (but not too close). This gives birds a safe place to wait their turns to drink or bathe and it gives wet birds a safe place to preen after bathing. It’s also a place for all to flee if there is danger.
If there are cats roaming free in your neighborhood, keep bird baths out in the open away from places where cats can hide and attack. If you’re unable to keep your cats indoors, please put bells on their collars. That will give our beloved song birds a fair chance!
How to maintain a bird bath in summer.
Keep your bird bath clean. Rinsing and refresh often, usually daily, in the summer. Don’t wait until the water gets icky! If you see the water is discolored or there is algae, scrub with baking soda, lemon juice or white vinegar and then rinse well. Never add chemicals to the water!
Worried About Mosquitoes?
If you’re worried about mosquitoes, here are reasons why a well-maintained bird bath won’t breed mosquitoes:
- Birds eat mosquito larvae! No self respecting bird will leave this tasty treat behind.
- Mosquito larvae takes minimum 7-10 days to hatch. As a conscientious host, during that time you will have freshened the water several times.
- Mosquito larvae tubers will drown due to the frenzied, bathing activity of your guests and the timely refilling and freshening you do..
If after filling and freshening you’re still concerned about mosquitoes, add motion to your bird bath water with a water-wiggler, mister or dripper. Or, check out our bird bath fountains.
The movement and sound of splashing water can help attract birds to your bath. Stop by the store and we can help you find the best options for your backyard habitat.
See our resource page Mosquitoes, Bird Baths and Your Backyard out more about mosquitoes (and where they are more likely to be breeding in your backyard than in your bird bath!).
Bird feeders are very active in summer. Not only do adults need to keep feeding themselves, but they now have babies to feed, too. Make it easier on them! By providing a consistent, reliable food source, you encourage birds to nest in your yard.
Nutritious summer foods to offer include black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, nyjer (thistle), suet, meal worms, jelly and fruit. Fruit eating birds, like Catbirds and Orioles, especially love the berries and orange halves. Please ask us for more information.
This is Hummingbird Season!
For Hummingbirds, fresh nectar is essential! Feeders should be emptied and rinsed (No soap!) two to three times a week—or sooner if the nectar looks cloudy—and refilled with fresh nectar. See our Hummingbird resource page for a recipe for nectar and more info about these amazing birds.
Keep a Clean Habitat
Clean feeders regularly! Check for mold and clumpy seed, particularly after lots of rain and humidity. Hot soapy water is great for seed feeders. Soak. Scrub. Dry well. Refill.
Keep shell debris at a minimum under your feeders, even if it doesn’t bother you. Accumulated shells carry mold that can be deadly to ground feeding birds. Shell-free sunflower seeds can be an excellent feeding option and it’s loved by all seed eaters.
Insect-Eaters and Pesticides
Remember our insect eaters! Birds feed their babies insects almost entirely while they are in the nest. Please reconsider the use of pesticides and “green lawn” chemicals—especially widespread spraying for mosquitoes—as these pesticides kill all the beneficial insects and caterpillars, too! Pesticides have decimated our butterfly populations.
A healthy population of beneficial insects is critical for a healthy backyard habitat.
Clean out your bird houses/nest boxes after each brood. Cavity nesting mama birds have 2-3 broods a season and prefer a clean house for each brood! If you’d like to place bird houses/nesting boxes in your backyard, see our resource page Choosing, Placing and Maintaining Wild Bird houses.
Add some shade. Most birds nest in dense shrubbery, bushes and trees. While newly-planted trees and shrubs grow to maturity, vines, taller grasses and dense ground covers can also offer respite from heat and add nesting opportunity and privacy for backyard birds.
Don’t prune during nesting season. Shhh! Mama is busy in there with her second, or even third brood! So, please be aware and delay your heavy yard work until Fall, when possible. Another tip: Don’t deadhead the plants in your garden. Birds will do that task for you—especially our American Goldfinches!
Want to take gardening for your habitat a step further? Read Douglas Tallamy’s book ‘Bringing Nature Home’ or visit the book’s companion website ‘Gardening for Life’.