Seeds, Seeds, More Seeds – Wild Birds Favorites
My husband wants his beef. For me it’s chicken, fish, and veggies. Why should it be a surprise that blue jays love peanuts and cardinals prefer sunflower or safflower seeds? In fact, many birds have specific preferences for their dining pleasure. This month I’ll share some of the ways to entice a variety of birds to your backyard feeders.
Of course, some birds only want to hunt their own meals, like robins, mockingbirds, swallows and birds of prey. Then again, you might see a hawk pick a sunflower eating dove off the feeder. And seed eaters will almost always fight the squirrels at the feeders.
Cardinals and grosbeaks tend to prefer tray and hopper feeders, Tube feeders draw birds that like to cling such as titmice, wrens, chickadees, blue jays, all finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers.
Which Bird Eats Which Food
The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds, making it the mainstay for most backyard bird feeders, is sunflower. A variety of other seeds will attract different birds to expand your avian visitations. And blue jay, squirrels, and doves will eat them any way you serve them. When selecting seed mixtures, avoid the ones filled with red millet that most birds avoid and wind up creating a weedy mess under the feeder.
Select the right feeder type and wild bird food mix:
• Suet or Bark Butter (see recipe) – Suet cakes with protein and seed come in balls, rolls, and square cakes that attract mockingbirds, blue jays, woodpeckers, bluebirds, tufted titmice, nuthatches, and red winged blackbirds. Suet baskets are readily available in all stores that carry wild bird supplies, or you can slather homemade bark butter on a homemade feeder.
• Sunflower – Sunflower-eating birds have no issue cracking black or striped seeds offered in tube or platform feeders. An added benefit are the sunflowers that will sprout in your garden.
• Safflower – While some experts claim safflower discourages sparrows, European starlings, and squirrels. For cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, and doves it’s a gourmet treat.
• Nyjer or thistle – American and lesser goldfinches, indigo buntings, pine siskins feast on tiny nyjer seeds offered in special tube feeders or mesh bags.
• Ground Feeding: Quails, native American sparrows, doves, towhees, juncos, and cardinals will clean up many of the seeds that land on the ground, under feeders.
• Shelled and cracked corn – Please use cracked corn for feeding ducks and ducklings, rather than bread, which can swell in their throats. Sprinkled on deck or fence rails, corn will also draw blue jays.
• Peanuts – Preferably raw, shelled or not, whole or halved, blue jays and woodpeckers will find them fast, hopefully before the squirrels. Whole peanuts in the shell often wind up buried by squirrels around the yard, and you become a peanut farmer.
• Mealworms: A nice protein addition to the wild bird feeder for chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, thrashers, gray catbirds, warblers, and American robins, served in platform or dish-like feeders.
Birds that come to feeders are generally social by nature, and while feeders don’t necessarily increase the spread of disease, we are encouraged to clean feeders every two weeks with a diluted bleach solution.
There’s no need to take feeders down to encourage migration. The length of the day generally triggers a bird’s migratory urge. Your late season feeder will likely provide a needed energy boost along a bird’s migration route.
Bark Butter Recipe
• 1-1/2 cups lard
• 3/4 cups any nut butter
• 2 cups wild bird seed
• 1 cup quick oats
• 1/2 cup corn meal
• Mix all ingredients
Refrigerate to store. Best use when temps are over 70. It melts. Birds eat it fast!
Use a small log 1 to 1-1/2 feet long, drill 6 to 10 wells into the wood and fill wells with bark butter. Hang or place log where birds feed. Refill as needed.