Feeding birds used to be a winter activity, but birds need our help in the summer months too, to ensure they have energy enough to survive leaner times ahead.


Following the spring and early summer breeding season, there are millions more hungry mouths to feed. Nesting parents will have to work hard to feed their young, while maintaining their own energy levels. They may have to cope with dry weather, when earthworms burrow deep beneath the surface; or in wet weather, when foraging is difficult.

Just as in winter, high-energy food is the key to summer feeding. Live food is also recommended, to supplement the food they can find in the wild.

Find out more about which foods to feed your garden birds, below.

Want to grow your own bird food? Discover seven plants with seeds and 10 berried plants.

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Sunflower hearts

Sunflower hearts are packed with energy and are easier for birds to eat as they don't have a tough seed coat to crack open. They are also a cleaner alternative to whole sunflower seeds, as the birds don't have any seed coats to discard.

Add sunflower seeds to this attractive pumpkin bird feeder.

Sunflower hearts
Sunflower hearts in a clear plastic and metal bird feeder


Mealworms are the perfect summer dietary supplement. Lives ones are best but a dried alternative is available.

Discover more foods suitable for the range of birds in your garden.

Dried mealworms
A handful of dried mealworms

Fruit and other leftovers

Fruit like raisins, sultanas, apples or pears are an excellent source of energy. Leave on the ground for ground-feeding birds, or suspend from a tree for others. Leftovers like cooked pasta and rice are high in energy, as is rind from unsalted meat or cooked veg. Avoid salty food or bread.

Apple threaded on wire to hang for birds
Threading an apple onto wire to hang for birds

Avoid fatty foods

It's best to avoid foods that might melt in hot weather, such as products containing lots of fat. Fat balls may become rancid after a time, so are best avoided too.

Hanging up home-made fat cake
Hanging up a homemade fat ball


Be careful when feeding them peanuts, as they might spread aflatoxin, a fungal infection that can be lethal to birds. Check the pack before you buy to make sure the nuts have been tested. Never put out nuts intended for human consumption, as they contain very high levels of salt.


Don't forget to keep bird feeders clean to prevent bacteria and fungal spores building up. You can also read our round-up of the best bird feeders to buy.

Terracotta pots containing peanuts, birdseed and fat balls, hung from a tree for birds

Kate Bradbury says

When feeding birds, make sure there is plenty of shelter, such as a hedge, nearby, so birds can fly to safety if they need to. Clean feeders and move feeding stations regularly, to prevent the build up of bacteria.
Kate Bradbury