Summer Bird Feeding

May 2016

Bernie Angus, WCROC Landscape Gardener

Winter is certainly a prime time for feeding birds since natural foods are less abundant and the cold weather brings resident birds more frequently to the feeder.  However, summer bird feeding can bring you different species, such as neotropical migrants that aren’t around in winter.  You can double the number Rose Breasted Grosbeakof bird species visiting your feeders by providing diversity in food as well as offering different types of feeders.  

We can attract summer migrants that include: ruby throated hummingbird, Baltimore and orchard orioles, rose breasted grosbeaks, red headed woodpecker, gray catbird, eastern bluebird, brown thrashers, mourning dove and house finch.

Safety tips for feeding birds seed in the summer

Keep your seed dry.  Hot humid summer weather creates the potential for mold.  Some molds produce a byproduct aflatoxin, which is fatal to birds.  Only fill feeders half way in summer and refill more frequently.  If you find mold on your seed, dispose of it in the garbage. 

Types of Feeders

Different types of feeders attract different bird species.  Some of the larger bird species prefer a hopper or platform type feeder.  The American Goldfinch prefers the niger thistle seed for food and a special tube feeder with narrow slots or fine mesh bag will only allow the goldfinch to feed on the seed.  The smaller birds are generally attracted to the tube feeders.  There are special feeders for sugar water to attract hummingbirds and orioles.  


Black oil sunflower seed is still the most common seed to provide as most all the migrants will utilize these except the hummingbird. 

Move Feeders Occasionally

Concentrations of seed hulls and bird droppings under a feeder can lead to outbreaks of salmonellosis, a bacterial sickness that can affect birds (and people). Periodically cleaning the area beneath feeders will also be beneficial.

Put Suet in the Shade

Some packaged suet comes in no-melt varieties, but even these can spoil or become soft and foul a birds feathers in high heat.  Keep suet in cool places.

Clean your Feeders Regularly

Washing feeders every few weeks will keep your feeders both attractive and healthy for the birds.  To clean your feeder, take it apart and hand wash with either soap and boiling water or with a dilute bleach solution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water).  Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before putting seed back in. 

Fruits & Jellies

Baltimore Oriole at FeederAmerican robins, gray catbirds, blue jays and northern cardinals are attracted to apple halves.  Orioles, red bellied and red headed woodpeckers are attracted to orange halves.  Grape jelly will attract orioles, catbirds and robins.  Over ripe bananas placed in a mesh bag will attract a colony of fruit flies.  Hang this close to your hummingbird feeder and alternately hummingbirds will visit the sugar water and capture fruit flies from the mesh bag.


Birds that don’t normally visit feeders such as bluebirds, robins, wrens and some warblers are attracted to mealworms.  Regular feeder birds, including gray catbirds, chipping sparrows, cardinals, grosbeaks and orioles are also easily attracted to tasty mealworms.  The mealworms can be placed in an old breakfast food bowl or shallow plastic dish that are too slick on the sides for the mealworms to climb.  Place the bowl or dish in an open area where movement of the mealworms will attract the birds attention.  Special mealworm feeders are commercially available. Mealworms can be purchased at pet stores or bait shops. 

Happy Birding!