Nov 8, 2011

Better Bird Food Means Better Birds

Better Bird Food Means Better Birds

I'm a complete believer in just what the title of this post says. If you offer quality food and food that the birds will actually eat... you'll get a better variety of birds. If that's what you want, anyway. Some bird watchers are happy with whatever birds show up, but not at our house. We keep a count -- we up to 62 different varieties in our yard. There's no question, it's easy to pick up a bag of bird food when and where ever you're shopping. But what you get in that bag at a box store, most likely isn't going to net you more than a few types of birds and eventually they may stop coming.

So why not? What's so different from the food in a grocery store or box store than our store or other specialty bird store? Fillers, fillers, fillers. Check the contents ... ingredients such as milo, red millet, and wheat are not eaten by birds in our area. Some white proso millet is okay, but it's eaten by ground feeding birds such as sparrows, juncos, and doves. In the photo of the box store seed below, the small yellowish seeds are the white proso millet, the large seeds are sunflower seeds, and everything else is filler. Even if you took out the fillers, the ratio of the millet to sunflower is way off.

Box Store "Songbird" Blend
Mostly Fillers

Cool Ponds "Best Songbird Mix" 
Only what the birds will eat. 

In the photo of the Cool Ponds mix, the predominant seed is sunflower, followed by sunflower meats, then some peanuts and white proso millet. If you were to use the seed in the first photo, the birds would initially pick out the sunflower, throw the rest on the ground, and after a while simply stop coming because you're not offering what they'll eat. This happens a lot only to end in frustration and a mess of uneaten seed on the ground.

Luckily, there's a better way. You can choose other seeds that will not end up as a mess on the ground. 

Black Oil Sunflower -- Enjoyed by many birds
If you're looking for an economical seed, choose Black Oil Sunflower. Very few birds don't eat this type of seed and it gives them the nutrients they need. The only downside is the shells. Part of what you are paying for doesn't get used and ends up as waste on the ground. 

Sunflower chips or hearts -- no mess!
Another option is Sunflower Hearts or Chips. This is simply black oil sunflower that has been shelled. You'll pay more per pound, but everything you buy will get eaten and there's no mess to clean up later!

Safflower -- Not eaten by English sparrows and stalings
 If you're tired of feeding house sparrows, starlings, and squirrels..try Safflower. Safflower is loved by cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice. This is a staple at our house! We fill two platform feeders and they are the first to get visited each morning by cardinals. I recommend you don't place it in a tube feeder. English sparrows will perch on the tube and continue to throw all the safflower on the ground as they search for something they want. They can make a real mess.

Nutberry Suet Blend -- Attracts fruit eating birds
This is our all-time favorite at our house, Nutberry Suet Blend. This is truly gourmet bird food, but it has attracted more birds to our backyard than any other food...period. And the customers that buy this food regularly swear by it! It contains sunflower meats, peanuts, pecans, blueberry flavored cranberries, cherries, apple slices, and insect suet kibbles. (If it weren't for those insect kibbles, I'd swear it was trail mix!) This food draws in the fruit eating birds. Northern mocking birds and catbirds enjoy this very much at our house.

"Hot" foods -- Can't be eaten by squirrels!

Finally there are the "hot" foods. These are infused with Habanero chilli peppers. Birds can't taste peppers -- but squirrels can! Both Hot Meats (Sunflower chips with pepper sauce) and Cajun Cardinal (Sunflower chips and safflower with pepper sauce) work really well for keeping squirrels from cleaning out your feeders. If squirrels are an issue for you... you may want to give these a try!

If bringing a variety of birds to your yard is important to you, then try some new foods. We continue to try new foods all the time. Stay away from the cheap mixes -- if you're looking for an economical way to feed the birds, skip the cheap mixes and go strictly with black oil sunflower. You may not get as many unusual birds, but there will be no seed wasted and the birds will get what they love.

Hope you're enjoying your bird watching this fall. We certainly are!
Thanks for reading!

Written by Cool Ponds Staff Member Staci

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy topping off the feeders a couple of days a week. By using the shelled feed and the no waste foods it makes birding much easier to enjoy. I have a wide variety of birds to entertain me, my son and my cats. And with no shells or wasted food on the ground I only have to clean the feeders once in a while, that's it. It is easy and relaxing entertainment. Plus there is something to be said for offering something back to Mother Nature.
Thanks Cool Ponds, I love your store. Keep up the good work.


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