As the seasons change, bird feeding habits will vary. In winter, we can easily see an increase in birds at our feeders and we will notice the food we leave out for them quickly decrease. This means more refilling, more often. In early spring we will see this steadily increase again as mating season begins and there are a few more small beaks to feed. During these times, and even inbetween these times, you may be concerned that you are overfeeding your birds.
Although there are certainly some birds that are a little more greedy than others - birds are clever when it comes to their eating habits and will tend to not overeat. They are in tune with how much food is required to see them through the day and will quickly learn what their bodies need to sustain their activities. Any food that we provide them with is supplementary to their natural diet. So no, you are not overfeeding your birds. A feeder that empties quickly can just be a sign of a very active feeding spot, and moreover, a sign you are doing a great job feeding the wild birds in your area.
If the bird food in your feeder seems to disappear in a day or two, it may be time to consider having more than one feeding area. Just like it is for us, variety is the spice of life for birds too. Having more than one feeding spot and offering more than one type of food can encourage more birds to your garden but can also lessen your refilling trips. By providing mixtures as well as straight seeds (niger, peanuts, sunflower seeds) you will encourage a variety of birds that can fill up on a range of feeders instead of just one. This also creates less competition and allows for a more harmonious feeding experience for all of the birds who visit your garden.
The most obvious tip is to keep an eye out on your feeders, when food gets low, you can refill it. This is especially important for hanging feeders that may have multiple ports at different heights on the tube. As the food levels become low, some of these ports will become unusable. For table feeders you may need to check your bird food levels more regularly. If you find that your feeder does not need refilled as often as you think, we would still recommend that you remove any uneaten food after 1 week to avoid bacteria building up.
The more you feed birds, the more you will become familiar with their feeding habits and you will begin to understand how much food you need to put out. Of course, it is entirely up to you how much food you wish to leave out for your birds, but if you are just starting out and want to see them in your garden then it is better to leave out more than less until you are able to gage how much they are really eating. During winter and early spring, it is also advisable that you leave out a little bit extra and provide certain seeds to give them a helping hand during these busy seasons.
If you're wondering whether mixtures or straights are the best options for your garden birds, we have put together a simple guide on how to choose the best one and some of the reasons why.