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Sunflower seeds are highly

recommended for bird feeding

This is the third column in a series I have been writing on inviting birds into your backyard. This week we will look at different types of bird feed.

Soon it will be turning cold and you may be thinking about giving the birds in your yard or garden a helping hand when it comes to finding food.

Feeding birds makes an important contribution to their well-being, and can be fun for us too.

After deciding to feed birds, you will need to make some menu choices. Even though insects make up a large portion of the diet of many birds feeding in back yards, they still have seed preferences. If you want to keep it simple and make the greatest number of birds happy – fill your feeder with sunflower seeds.

Research conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reveals that birds prefer sunflower seed, white proso millet and niger (thistle) seed. The most popular choice, by the greatest number of species is sunflower seed. There are several different sunflower seeds: black oil-seed, small black striped seed, large gray shelled seed and a hulled combination of three. The small black-oil sunflower seed is the recommended choice.

I prefer just sunflower seed over seed mixes. Most mixed seed combinations include red millet along with other filler seeds and hulls, which will be wasted and discarded by birds. It is important to note that some of the ingredients in mixed feeds, like milo, attract starling and other undesirable birds.

S

eed mixes also cause pesky weeds in your lawn or flower bed. This is the most important reason I prefer sunflower seed – if some of it germinates, it produces a desirable plant.

Mourning Doves, White-throated sparrows and other ground feeders will dine happily on scattered sunflower seeds, but if you want to throw special feed for them, white proso millet is the best choice,

Niger (thistle) is a very small seed not related to the thistle that grows in fields and broadsides. Niger needs a feeder with tiny opening which will accommodate the slender bills of birds such as American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin. However, if you do not want to go to the expense of putting out niger, Goldfinches will eat sunflower seed.

Black-oil sunflower seed, niger and white proso millet are available at most grocery, feed and home improvement stores.

There are a couple of special feeding options to consider. Suet can be put out any time of the year, but in the winter when the natural food supply is limited, it will be especially appreciated by birds looking for extra carbohydrates and protein. Commercial suet cakes are available, but a homemade concoction is simple to prepare. Birds seem to prefer homemade suet recipes which are usually made with more nutritious ingredients than commercial products.

To make suet, mix together 1 cup melted shortening, 1 cup peanut butter, 4 cups cornmeal and 1 cup flour. Mold the recipe into a block and put in an appropriate container where birds can get to it. Suet feeders are available in the marketplace, but an old pie pan works well. Suet also can be stuffed into holes drilled in a piece of wood , such as a cedar log.

When feeding suet in summer, put out only a day’s supply, since it spoils quickly in warm weather.

Apple, orange, banana and other fruits are another feeding option. Some woodpeckers and tropical migrants will feed on fresh fruit and raisins.

After inviting birds to your yard by erecting and filling feeders, do not be discouraged if they do not show up immediately. Usually it takes time for the birds to arrive, but they will come if you give them a chance to discover your feeding station. Often people begin by feeding birds only during the winter months but eventually maintain feeders year round.

Nov. 15, 1999, 11 PM