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Feeding the Birds


What do birds want to find at our backyard feeders? Here are some suggestions about different types of birdseed, all of which are sold at Woodland Gardens.

Black-oil sunflower seed: This has become the most popular seed on the market. It has a high meat-to-shell ratio and is high in fat, which is especially good for birds in wintertime. The seeds are small, with thin shells, so even small birds, like sparrows and goldfinches, can crack them open.

Striped sunflower seed: This type of sunflower seed, also liked by many birds, is larger, with thicker shells.

Sunflower hearts: Hulled sunflower seeds are more expensive than those with the shells, but every species loves them. Because they're sold without the shell, no mess is left on the ground under the feeder. Be careful not to let the hearts get wet, however, as they rot quickly when damp. According to the Audubon Society, these attract jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, finches, goldfinches, northern cardinals, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and grackles.

Mixed seed: Beware of buying inexpensive mixed seed, as these mixtures may contain ingredients not liked by many birds. Milo (a round, reddish seed), wheat and oats are often mixed into low-priced blends, but most species avoid them in favor of the other ingredients.

Millet: This round, shiny, white seed, often found in mixed blends, is generally preferred by ground-feeding birds, such as doves, juncos, and red-winged blackbirds.

Thistle (Nyjer): These tiny seeds attract small finches such as goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls. Because of its size and its high cost, use specially made thistle feeders, which have tiny feeding ports.

Peanut hearts (sold whole in some stores): Titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, cardinals, jays, many sparrows, and wrens love whole or crushed peanuts. Use specially made feeders.

Safflower: Generally more expensive than sunflower seed, safflower is especially loved by cardinals, as well as gosbeaks, sparrows, and doves.

Cracked corn: If you want to attract pheasants, quail, and turkeys, put out cracked corn. It will also attract blackbirds, finches, sparrows, jays, and doves. Do not let it get wet, or it will rot.

Good information about feeding birds can be found on the Audubon Society website, www.audubon.org; the website of Cornell Labor of Ornithology, www.birds.cornell.edu; and on www.americanbirding.org (the website of the American Birding Association).