We are now into May and you might be wondering, what are garden birds doing in late Spring? The changes in our gardens, weather and extended hours of daylight can transform the behaviours of birds. So there are a few things we can observe.
Birds perform a louder Dawn Chorus
Although birds can be heard singing all throughout the year, birdsong is much livelier in Spring and Summer mornings. This month begins with international Dawn Chorus Day on May 3rd, celebrating the day you will hear the loudest dawn chorus of the year!
The dawn chorus usually begins with robins, black birds, song thrushes and skylarks. Sometimes robins are awake before it is light. This is because they are able to see and forage for food when it is still dark. So although the chorus usually begins around 4am, some robins may be awake and heard even earlier.
Most garden birds take the time and effort to sing at dawn, as it is not yet light enough to focus on foraging. Finding food is saved for later in the day, so searching for a mate and defending the nest can be prioritised.
Male birds protect their territory
Male birds perform the dawn chorus for a couple of reasons. One is to attract a mate, as some birds have yet to find a breeding partner and are later to nest. This competitive call must be vigorous and most dominant to attract a female to a nesting position. The loudest singer has the best chance of winning a female.
Also, he must sing mightily enough to protect his territory, by threatening other birds attempting to steal this spot. Birds consider their selected nesting spot to be a worthy position for food resources. So he can care for himself, his mate and offspring, therefore, it must be defended at all costs.
Another reason dawn chorus is sung in late Spring is in order for birds to protect their eggs and newborn chicks. They need to be on high alert, singing intimidatingly so that their young remain unharmed from other birds. So, although the dawn chorus sounds beautiful and cheerful to you and I, it has a powerful and stressed purpose.
Other territorial behaviour garden birds will show is through their physical attacks on birds that are on their patch. If other birds pose a threat to a nest, they can become very viscous. Robins tend to be the most aggressive garden bird during a conflict. Especially through the high pressured months of Spring.
Garden Birds search for more food
May is a critical time for birds, as many parents must begin finding larger quantities of food for their entire family to survive. New parents will be caring for and feeding several hungry chicks. So bolder moves will be made to ensure food is being brought back to the nest. Therefore, you might find that birds will become more confident around you when locating food in your garden. In most species, the male will hunt and the female will feed their young for 2-3 weeks after their fledglings have left the nest.
In May, there is growing food resources, and garden birds will primarily feed on invertebrates. Things like ants, spiders, slugs, snails, beetles and millipedes will certainly be on the menu.
However, natural food resources such as insects and berries do not fully flourish until later in the summer. And if the weather turns wet or cold during spring and summer months, insect numbers can drop significantly. The same applies if the weather is too hot and dry, causing soil to turn solid.
So it is important that we leave out extra food during this time. High quality bird food mix or chopped, soft fresh fruit are good options for much needed energy. And don’t forget to provide and replenish lots of fresh water for thirsty chicks!