"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When it comes to birdseed: you get what you pay for

Nutmeg Mannikins flock to a seed feeder in Mission Viejo. Photo by J.J. Meyer
A reader recently wrote:  "I have two birdseed feeders in my back yard and they get plenty of action but the big problem is 70 percent of the feed is tossed on the ground. I have tried several different brands of feed with the same results. Walmart, Ace, and Home Depot. Any suggestions?"

When it comes to buying birdseed, I believe the old adage--you get what you pay for. 
Generally, if the seed is really cheap, it contains a high percentage of filler grain to keep the price down. Fillers are seeds that birds don't eat, like those big red chunks that always end up on the ground.  In addition, cheap seed can be old and dry. Examine the bag. Black oil sunflower seeds should be black, not gray. Birds often reject old seed because without the oil, it is no longer nutritious.

I suggested that the reader try an experiment. First, dump the old seed and clean the feeder. (soak in 10 percent bleach solution for about 30 minutes, rinse well and let dry overnight.) Then go to a nature store, feed store or one of the Wild Birds Unlimited stores and purchase some fresh, quality seed.  You will pay more than the discount stores, but you will get 100 percent edible seed. Certain seeds, such as millet, may still be kicked to the ground. But the ground-feeders such as sparrows, doves and towhees will gladly clean up under the feeder.  At the end of the day, there will be no filler seed left on the ground to attract rats. If shells are a problem, consider purchasing a no mess blend.

Happy Birding!

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