What’s on the Menu?
When it comes to feeding the birds, there can be a variety of things on the menu depending on the season – from insects to fruit to seeds and suet.
In winter time, I’ve narrowed things down to just a few key staples that keep my home birds happy:
1) Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: I buy these in two forms….unshelled for the main feeder (large tube feeder and large hopper feeder both hung from posts/trees) and shelled for the platform feeder that I look out on from my computer.
Sunflower seeds have lots of protein and good oils that help birds out through the cold months.
Cardinals have shell-cracking beaks as do some of the other birds so they enjoy this. All the birds will come and eat the shelled variety that has smaller chips that Goldfinches and others can easily eat as well.
2) Suet: Favorites for these are the peanut butter and nut varieties. When you buy suet, make sure it’s not filled with “other stuff” – some of the lesser brands add filler seeds like millet to the mix which isn’t really on the menu for the birds who will go to the suet feeder.
3) Mealworms: Your woodland birds like Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, White-breated Nuthatches and even some of your woodpeckers will all stop by for mealworms. Use a tray or similar container with a lip that the birds can perch on and that will keep the mealworms from crawling away.
I buy mine online in bulk and keep them in a container in the basement. Grubco is one company that you can buy from online but there are others as well. If you’re just curious about feeding mealworms, you can buy a small containers at Petco, Petsmart and other pet stores – look in the area of the store near fish.
4) No Waste Mix: This mix has peanuts, millet, safflower seeds, and shelled sunflower seeds. Ground feeders like sparrows and mourning doves love this mix and woodpeckers will come down for the peanuts. I sometimes add a little cracked corn to in case Wild Turkeys come through. Throw this on the ground on a clear spot and watch the birds flock in.
There are also some all-nut mixes that the birds go crazy for – they’re called “woodland mix” or delite” – they’re a bit pricey but are certainly a hit and nothing goes to waste. Great for a special treat now and then.
Be sure to keep a nice birdbath filled with fresh water for the birds too – they need water to metabolize all these good foods.
Looking for a place to buy seeds? Avoid buying it at the supermarket. The mixes offered there rarely have the seeds or proper mix that our birds like. People are often telling me they never get birds at their feeders and it’s always because it’s the wrong mix or the wrong seeds put into a feeder (you don’t want to put seeds meant for ground feeding birds like sparrows in a feeder that you hang from a tree).
Locally you can find seeds at Tractor Supply and Southern States but you can also head to Reston to The Bird Feeder and get a 10% discount on all your bird seed, feeders and more. Learn more about this great member benefit here.