With the weather forecast looking wet, wet, WET for the foreseeable future, it's worth taking a look at our bird feeding practices to ensure we give our feathered friends a fighting chance as the season changes, the temperature drops and natural food sources diminish.
Birds naturally waterproof themselves by preening their feathers, coating them with oil from glands at the base of their tail to help water run off. They also trap pockets of air in the downy under layers of feathers to keep them warm - like a duvet!
So in light showers, you may see them fluff up their feathers, but in heavy rain, they will flatten them down to help water run off.
You may also see birds huddled together to keep warm and dry, or posed in a particular way - bodies upright and heads withdrawn with beaks pointed towards the rain. This position allows them to conserve energy and minimises the rain's contact with their body while helping it to slide off easily.
But, if their feathers get waterlogged, then the water reaches their skin and they are at real risk of hypothermia as their body temperature drops. Small birds have a higher surface-to-volume ratio than larger birds, and smaller energy reserves, therefore they are more at risk as they lose heat very quickly.
Do birds take shelter when it's raining?
Sure, birds can take shelter under thick hedgerows and shrubs, but only for short periods of time as they need to feed regularly. Sooner or later they will need to get wet! The oil in their feathers will protect them over short distances, but if their wing feathers get saturated it makes it difficult to fly and leaves them vulnerable to predators.
Not only is rain a risk to the birds themselves, but the feed you provide them can easily get damp and clogged up, making it less appetising and harder to get to; and more importantly increases the risk of mould, bacteria and disease spreading.
Here are some ideas for helping to keep your garden birds (and their food) dry and happy:
- The simplest step is to move feeders under a tree or shrub, or to a more sheltered position in your garden. The birds may have to rediscover the feeder so don't be surprised if you don't see them for a couple of days.
- Don't overfill your feeders. Less seed means less to get damp and clump together, which should help it flow more freely.
- Before refilling your feeder, make sure the inside is nice and dry to keep moisture to a minimum.
- Feeders with fewer ports have fewer points at which water can enter, so consider 'downsizing' your tube feeders in wet weather, from a 4-port to a 2-port feeder for example.
- Using Feeder Fresh granules in your tube feeders absorbs excess water and prevents mould growth. It is non-toxic for birds and wildlife, and is currently on offer with 20% off!
- Use a seed mix specifically for tube feeders, such as our Feeder Mix. Smaller, high quality, clean seeds are less likely to clump together meaning the birds can feed more easily.
- Look for feeders with offset ports - these make sure that any dampness isn't confined to the same areas of the feeder, helping the seed to flow.
- For ground feeders, tables and trays, there should always be drainage holes. Preferably a mesh base to help airflow around the seed easily.
- We sell a wide range of feeders with roofs, from window feeders with clear roofs for observation, to mealworm feeders and larger hanging robin feeders (which other birds will enjoy too). Some of them have an adjustable-height roof, which not only keeps the rain off, but keeps bigger birds out as well.
- Squirrel baffles provide a large canopy area to keep the rain off, while also keeping pesky squirrels at bay!
- We also stock a rain guard that will fit specific feeders, and a Rain Away (shown below) to fit others.
Why not call our friendly office team for more advice on 01489 896785.