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Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main page

Setting up a wildlife garden

Plants for butterflies

Plants for bees

Plants for hummingbirds

Plants for birds

Plant map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to feed birds:

#1 Sunflower seed #5 Tree nut cakes
#2 Shelled peanuts #6 Monkey nuts
#3 Suet #7 Mixed seed
#4 Safflower  

 

Many people like to feed birds and compared to going to a movie or a theme park, feeding birds is a cheap form of entertainment. It artificially raises the bird numbers living in suburban areas but one must also consider the damage done by humans to natural bird habitat. Here you will find some recommendations for common bird foods. You may still need make your own decision through trial and error about what works in your particular area. In general, you are looking for foods that do not support starlings, house sparrows and other non-native birds that are displacing our song birds. You may also have to consider the local mammals in your area as well. If you only have one feeder then you are looking for a food that supports the widest range of birds. If you have more feeders, then you can delve into specialty foods that target a particular set of birds. Remember to keep your feeders clean so that they do not become a source of disease for the local bird population.

 

1. Black sunflower oil seeds.

  Black sunflower seed oil  
  Black sunflower oil seed..  

 

The top choice of bird food is black sunflower seeds as they are eaten by a wide variety of native birds while not attracting starlings or house sparrows. The food is fairly cheap and easily obtainable in grocery stores. Even if you only have one feeder, buy the largest bag you can get hold of to get the most bang for your buck. Sunflower seeds have to be dehulled by the birds and they often drop seed under the feeder which will affect the growth of grass and other plants. Site your feeder with this in mind if you are using this seed or consider having a tray to catch most of the fallen seeds. The seed is popular with chipmunks; red squirrels; grey squirrels and possibly bears. Make sure the feeder is squirrel proof. Birds visiting your feeder will include black capped chickadees; gold finches; cardinals; blue jays; house finches; pine siskin and nuthatches.

I would not advise buying dehulled sunflower seeds because they are more expensive, more perishable and may attract birds that are not desirable. If you do find that your black sunflower seeds are being eaten by undesirable species, then consider switching to striped sunflower seeds, which have thicker shells.

 

2. Shelled Peanuts

  Peanuts as bird food.  
  Peanuts  

Peanuts are loved by woodpeckers and nuthatches. They are also adored by squirrels so any dropped seed will not go to waste. Peanuts are full of fats and proteins and they are rich in minerals and vitamins. Other birds like them as well, but considering the expense, it is better to buy a vertical feeder to house peanuts so that the woodpeckers and nuthatches get the most access to this food. It goes without saying that feeding peanuts to birds is not worth it unless your feeder is squirrel proof. The squirrels will hog the feeder if it contains peanuts and you will spend a lot of money.

  Woodpecker eating peanuts  
  A hairy woodpecker feeding on shelled peanuts.  

Please avoid buying peanuts intended for human consumption. Dry roasted nuts or salted nuts are just not suitable for birds. Peanuts are susceptible to aflatoxin contamination from the fungus Aspergillus and the fats in them can go rancid. Keep peanuts in a cool and dry location while they are being stored. Let the feeder be completely emptied by the birds or empty the feeder yourself before refilling. Woodpeckers do not start from the bottom when feeding and you could end up with rancid and contaminated feed. Heat and humidity are the worst possible conditions for peanuts both in the feeder and in storage. If you live in the USA, then consider only feeding peanuts from fall to spring or buying and feeding smaller amounts in the summer to limit the storage time.

3. Suet

  Suet is fed to birds  
  Suet containing seeds and corn.  

Suet is an excellent food to attract woodpeckers and nuthatches. It is more expensive than black sunflower seed, so I wait for it to go on sale. Kept in a cool place, it will last for months. Squirrels love suet so make sure your feeder is out of reach to these animals. Buy suet that does not have flavouring and colours added. Decent suets are made with pure animal fat; peanut butter and some nuts or fruits as well. Because suet is mostly animal fat, it will melt under the hot sun and it will go rancid. Keep suet feeders in the shade. The standard size suet block is a one inch thick slab that is about 5 inches square. All the other sizes, which are made for specific feeders are more expensive. Suets are energy rich foods that are excellent for overwintering birds.

4. Safflower seed

  Safflower seed is popular with Cardinals  
  Safflower seed  


Safflower seeds are rich in fat and last a long time. They feed cardinals, house finches and chipmunks. Since it is popular with a narrower range of birds, there is less competition for the feeder. This seed can even put on a platform feeder as long as it is squirrel proof to keep the chipmunks out. While safflower is more expensive than sunflower seeds, it lasts a long time as long as it is not gobbled up by all the other birds. I would consider having two smaller feeders running with safflower as it allows both the male and female cardinals to feed at the same time.

5. Tree nut cakes

  Tree nuts are excellent for birds  
  Tree nuts glued together with gelatin.  

Tree nut cakes are several times the price of suet, but they are a highly nutritious food source enjoyed by woodpeckers and nuthatches during the winter. I make them go further by putting them in an upside-down feeder that really restricts who can access the nuts. You can buy the nuts in large blocks and use a saw to cut slices for the feeder. A good tree nut block should not be mostly made up of peanuts. You should be able to see walnuts and almonds in abundance. All the cakes I have seen in shops are held together with gelatin so if you are looking for vegetarian alternatives to suet, this is better but not perfect. The cakes are usually sold in a larger format than suet and you will have to cut them up to make them fit a standard suet feeder.Do not bother providing tree nut cakes to birds unless you can keep the squirrels away. The squirrels will just demolish cake.

 

6. Monkey nuts (Peanuts in the shell)
  Monkey nuts are great for Corvids  
  Monkey nuts  

Monkey nuts are quite expensive. I only use them when I have time to watch the Blue Jays arrive to eat them. Blue Jays love them. Other corvids may also partake, but I do not normally see them. Other birds that like peanuts may also have a go, but if you have shelled peanuts already available, then they will leave them alone. Blue Jays will clean you out of monkey nuts in a fairly short space of time and because they are expensive, they are low on my list of bird food choices.

 

  Monkey nuts are loved by Blue Jays  
  In North America, it is the Blue Jay that you are most likely to see taking a monkey nut.  

7. Mixed seed

  Mixed seed is the worst food for birds  
  This mixed seed contains black sunflower seed, striped sunflower seed, peanuts, white proso millet, naked oats, red millet and milo seed.  

There are two problems with seed mixes including many of the premium varieties. They include seeds that will not be eaten by native songbirds and they attract less desirable species such as house sparrows. When I do not put out mixed seed, I never see house sparrows. When I do make it available, the house sparrows not only show up, but hog the feeder which excludes the songbirds that we love to watch. The cheap mixed seed sold in grocery stores is even worse because it contains a higher proportion of the seed that will be unused by songbirds. Sometimes we put it in a window feeder so that children can see the squirrels and chipmunks close up. Mixed seed is the least preferred of all bird foods apart from human scraps. It is worth forking out a bit more cash for black sunflower seed because it will bring in the birds that you want to see.