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To feed or not to feed...

Tuesday, 8th March 2016

That is the question. And this is the answer: Yes. Feed. Feed in winter, spring, autumn and yes summer. That’s the one that still seems to surprise some people. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is during the summer months that we should actually increase the amount of food we put out.
It stands to reason. After all, there are more birds around. Think about it. Every time a family of youngsters leave the nest they add to the numbers in the garden. A new family may be one or two, or it may be half a dozen. Plus, the parents are still around and chances are they are getting pretty worn out. Maybe a month ago they worked hard building a nest. The next phase was laying and incubating eggs, perhaps the least frantic time but they both needed to feed themselves and one another. What’s more, the quality of the food will affect the health of the offspring. Ironically, the healthier nestlings are, the hungrier they look, added to which their frantic begging for more uses up energy which can only be replaced by more food.

These days, we have all been privileged to see and be impressed by life inside the nest box. We know that it is the chicks that are barely moving that are in danger. It might by illness, or it might be hunger or even starvation. It is the ones that get the food that are the survivors.  The responsibility is with the parents. Every daylight minute they must search for food, feed the young and then find more. Now and again, they must also feed themselves or one another. Depending on the weather and other factors, natural food may be scarce. A shortage of caterpillars, a drought that bakes the earth so that worms are inaccessible.  They may well need or even rely on extra help. From us.

Even as summer merges into early autumn the need is still there. You may think you have “lost” some of your garden regulars, but they are only hiding. Feathers that have become battered and broken need replacing. They need to moult the old and grow new ones. Healthy food means healthy feathers. Neat and new when they reappear in the garden.

Summer is the busiest time, and it may not be over yet. Just when the frantic family rearing seems a thing of the past, some couples decide to have second broods!

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