"Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer." ~Pope Pius XII
My favorite time of day is the very early mornings - before much of the world has come alive. I love to go out into my yard, put out fresh bird food and water, and then sit back and welcome the day. It comes slowly, much like the rising sun. First come the Robins, singing their sweet morning song and perhaps taking in an early morning bath. The first to arrive at the feeders are often the cheerful little Chickadees with their tiny little cheeps - flitting about from feeder to feeder until they find that perfect seed. And the Blue Jays come barreling in like a fast moving train - snatching up the peanuts as the Titmouse quietly awaits his turn. As the day progresses, so do the birds and, for me, there is nothing more calming than this early morning ritual.
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I'm often asked about feeding the birds - and more specifically, what's the best seed to put out for birds? Hopefully, today's post will help answer that question.
If you only have one feeder, or only want to buy one type of food, then black-oil sunflower seed is the way to go. There are two-types of sunflower seed; black-oil and striped. Black-oil sunflower seeds have very thin shells that are easy for almost any seed eating bird to crack open. They also have a very high fat content, which is especially important in the winter. If you live in an area where you don't like the mess of the sunflower seed shells, you can buy shelled sunflower seeds. Of course, they are more expensive and without the protection of the shell they can spoil quickly (and make our feathered friends very sick); so if you choose to feed this type of food, don't offer more than can be eaten in a day or two - and if it gets wet be sure to throw it away and refill with fresh seed.
If you'd like to attract small Finches like the colorful American Goldfinch and even Indigo Buntings, then you might want to try Nyjer or Thistle seed. This tiny seed needs a special feeder or a thistle sack to hold the seed, but these birds often devour those tiny seeds. One common misconception about Thistle seed is that it will cause you to have Thistle weed in your yard. Thistle seed (which is now often called niger or nyjer) is imported from overseas and the seeds are heat-sterilized during importation, virtually eliminating the chance of it sprouting. I have fed Thistle seed for many, many years and have never had a single Thistle Weed in my yard.
As you can see from the picture above, peanuts are also a very popular choice for many birds. My Blue Jays love peanuts and will often sit outside squawking for me to feed them if I am late getting out. And if they aren't already waiting when I go out, I just give a whistle and they are there in a jiffy! Nuthatches, Titmice, Cardinals and even the occasional Red-bellied Woodpecker also love to visit my peanut feeder. Peanuts can also spoil quickly so, again, only put out enough that can be quickly eaten and if they get wet toss them and put out fresh peanuts.
Suet is also a nice offering for our feathered friends - especially during the winter months when they are needing that fat to give them energy and help them stay warm. During the summer you can offer a "no melt" type of suet - but beware, this suet most often contains seed which will attract any and every kind of bird imaginable - including Grackles and Starlings, which can make your suet disappear in under an hour!
You can also buy birdseed mixes but these mixes usually contain "fillers" (especially when bought at stores other than bird-specialty stores) which most birds will not eat. And, as we've discussed above, seed that isn't eaten becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which will contaminate the other seed more quickly. If you buy a birdseed mix, read the ingredients and try to avoid mixes that contain Red Millet, Golden Millet or Flax. If the mix has a lot of tiny red seeds, make sure those seed are Milo or Sorghum and not Red Millet.
I hope this helps with your bird seed choices. Do you have a particular food that is a big hit in your yard? Let us know in the comments below!