Bring in the birds!
By: Garden Gate staff
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Which seed to feed
In addition to choosing plants that develop seedheads and berries that birds love, you’ll probably want to set up a few feeders, too. This supplements food later on in the season, when other sources can be scarce. Plus, it’s just fun to watch visiting birds.
Click ahead to find out more about six common ingredients, how to use them and which birds they’ll attract.
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If you fed only black-oil sunflower seeds, you’d get plenty of variety at your feeder because so many birds like it. They crack the shells and eat the high-fat meat, leaving the hulls on the ground beneath the feeder. If this is a problem, you can also buy shelled sunflower pieces. They’re typically more expensive but may be worth it if you don’t like to rake up the shells.
Eaten by chickadees, house finches, Northern cardinals, nuthatches, grosbeaks, titmice
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In a mix, white millet is a nice complement to black-oil sunflower seeds. Although the little seeds are often kicked off of the feeder as birds go for the others in a mix, it isn’t wasted. It’s popular with ground-feeding birds. You could put it on a platform feeder by itself, include it in a mix or just sprinkle it on the ground.
Eaten by juncos, buntings, mourning doves, towhees
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Feed safflower at an elevated feeder — the same way you would black-oil sunflower seeds. Many of the same birds enjoy these seeds, but some people report that squirrels and house sparrows don’t seem to like safflower. So if you feed this by itself in your feeders, you may be able to exclude some of those pests.
Eaten by chickadees, mourning doves, grosbeaks, Northern cardinals, house finches
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Even though this tiny black seed is also called “thistle” seed, you don’t have to worry about it sprouting. The best way to feed it is with a special nyjer feeder with small holes for the seed. Fed this way, there’s not usually much waste. If you see seeds on the ground below your feeder, it’s likely the cracked empty shells.
Eaten by American goldfinches, purple finches, redpolls, pine siskins
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The birds that eat corn, either cracked or shelled, are mostly ground-feeding species. If you buy a mix with corn in it for your elevated feeders, it’ll probably be kicked to the ground. Corn is especially susceptible to spoiling in humid conditions, which can happen when stored in a plastic bag or fed in wet weather. Be sure to clean it up regularly so it doesn’t harm birds’ health.
Eaten by mourning doves, Northern cardinals, grosbeaks, quails, jays
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This high-fat, high-energy food is especially helpful in winter when birds need that extra boost. Store peanuts in a cool spot to avoid spoilage, just as you’d do with corn.
Eaten by jays, titmice, woodpeckers