Eight days after the official start of spring I got a glimpse of my first Robin of the season in Minneapolis. This, coupled with a 60-degree day on Sunday, March 30, 2014, lifted my spirits. Our northern neighbors continue to contend with bouts of snow, dashing hope for an early glimpse of a budding crocus. As we look for these sure signs of spring, we can take comfort in more daylight and warmer temperatures knowing that soon our bird binoculars will get some use in the field. Now is a great time to stock up on bulk birdseed so our feathered friends have plenty to eat as they nest and breed. Here are some bird feed pointers:
Nyjer seed – While buying bulk has the biggest bang for your buck, it is best to purchase only a month’s supply of Nyjer seed. With its high nutrition value, this bird seed attracts songbirds or Oscines, derived from the Latin word oscen “a songbird.” Nyjer seed will routinely entice Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Blue Jay or Goldfinches to your feeding area. Like coffee beans, seed flavor depends on freshness and roasting technique. Since Nyjer is related to Thistle it must be sterilized to prevent germination. Keep your supply in a cool, dry container so it doesn’t clump, dry out or lose its nutritional value. You can also check out Finch Max™ which combines Nyjer, millet, sunflowers and safflower for a high protein and fat ratio.
Sunflower –Available in black oil (“oilers”) or shelled seed, sunflower is economical and attracts the widest variety of birds including Northern Cardinal, Mourning dove, Nightingale, Woodpecker, Nuthatch, or thrush species. To diversify food offerings use striped sunflower in the shell (“stripers”) that make it harder to eat for small birds.
Safflower – Cardinals favor it and squirrels don’t. An old oilseed crop, safflower is native to the Middle East and was used to entomb mummies, dye fabric and for cooking. Safflower is a great choice for the bird feeder because squirrels often ignore it and won’t pillage your bird seed supply.
Shelled and whole Peanuts – are a healthy source of fat and peanuts are a high calorie food. Long-lasting and easy to use, peanuts are stored by jays in autumn to eat when food is scarce in winter. Use the prdseed.com mesh Peanut Tube feeder that is squirrel-proof-sturdy to make your yard a Blue Jay haven.
Buy and store tips
Not sure what type of seed to buy? Learn tips on selecting the right seed. Shop seeds by large, small, songbird or variety so you can lure a multitude of birds to your feeder this spring. To properly store seed, have clean and air tight containers. Before storing seed, check for freshness and make sure there are no signs of mold. Place your bird seed containers in a cool, dry location. Because of its protective layer, shelled seed lasts longer than hulled seed.
Mix up your seed offerings to attract the biggest variety of birds. Off brand, outdated or discount bird seed can do more harm than good. Birds will ignore seed mixed with fillers such as red millet or oats. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology points out that “wasted seed provides a breeding ground for bacteria and mold that can harm birds” or domestic pets in your yard.
Before you fill feeders or distribute seed, consider squirrel-proofing your bird feeder. Place feeders away from trees, wires, porches or other launching points. Squirrels can jump as much as 10 feet or more. You can also place wire around feeders or use baffles above and below to prevent access by squirrels. We had a reader write in about a voracious squirrel who chewed through electrical wiring to her home that caused blown fuses and an extended power outage.
~ Wild Bird Feeding Industry website
~Choosing bird seed – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
~2001 Birdscope: Feed watchers tell all