Monday, October 8, 2012


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Having a Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation has made my yard a wildlife-friendly place. I received a letter from David Mizejewski, NWF Naturalist and media spokesman. 
You've probably seen his show on TV, where he visits people in suburbia and the inner-cities across America, helping them create a wildlife-friendly yard. His letter described three facts to keep in mind when selecting food for your bird feeders. Mizejewski brings up the point that as the weather turns cooler and food sources become scarcer, many birds will begin looking for supplemental food. Fall is a great time to : 

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First, choose food with high nutritional content, especially protein and fat. A bird's metabolism can require up to 10,000 calories a day (equivalent to a human consuming 155,000 calories). They can require even more during breeding season and on the coldest days. Backyard feeders are an especially efficient place to forage because they mimic what scientists call a "resource patch," a cluster of food much like a fruit-laden apple tree.

Second, choose high-quality food. Birds actually assess potential food for nutritional content and quality. You may even catch them rattling individual seeds in their bills to weigh and taste them before deciding to eat them. In fact, birds discard low-quality food, and a food patch with consistently low-quality food may be avoided for a while.

Lastly, choose seeds that are easily handled and digested. For birds, eating is about nutrition and also consuming a lot of food quickly to avoiding predators. Research has shown that given a choice between cumbersome seeds or easily handled seeds, birds consistently choose the latter.

Thank you, David. Now, here's some additional facts about 5  seed varieties commonly used:

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Sunflower seeds are a staple to attract chickadees, house finches, titmice, jays, grosbeaks, cardinals, sparrows, nuthatches and all types of woodpeckers. This seed variety is also the best choice for beginning bird feeding and can be used in a variety of feeder styles. Black oil sunflower seeds are the best for songbirds, while the larger striped sunflower seeds are suitable for larger birds with stronger bills. Hulled sunflower kernels and chips are also popular with smaller birds because they are easier to eat.

If you want to attract sparrows, jays, towhees, grouse, quail, blackbirds, ducks or wild turkeys, try cracked corn. It is a less expensive seed often used as filler in birdseed mixes, but its high carbohydrate content makes it suitable for a number of backyard birds, particularly for ground-feeding birds that may have larger appetites. Birds that often feed on grain or are common in agricultural areas may favor cracked corn. I scatter cracked corn on the ground and mix it in with mixed-bird seed, and the Mourning Doves love it! I've counted up to a dozen doves in my backyard, savoring this variety of bird food. Unfortunately, several of them fell to the talons of speedy Sharp-shin and Cooper's Hawks. But, that's nature's way. It was amazing to see these predators hiding in the cover of the dense fir tree in my backyard, before they attacked.

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I enjoy putting out Niger seed to keep the Goldfinches in my yard all winter long, otherwise, they disappear until Spring. Purple finches and any type of clinging finch, redpolls, pine siskins and quail also savor this small, thin seed. It is high in oil, making it a great food for winter birds. Because of their small size, however, Niger seeds can be light and easily spilled or blown away. Mesh-style or sock feeders are best for this expensive seed, and clinging birds will have no trouble feeding from these unique feeders.

Millet attracts doves, sparrows, juncos, quail and buntings. They are small white seeds are a common component of birdseed mixes, but it can be purchased separately for individual feeding if desired. This seed is useful in hopper and tube feeders, as well as for sprinkling on the ground or in tray or platform feeders.

Safflower Seeds attract cardinals, nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers and house finches. It is a large, oval seed with a white shell that looks like a white sunflower seed, and has  a thick shell, so only birds with sturdy bills to crack the seeds open can make good use of them. This is a popular seed choice in backyards where squirrels often raid feeders, because squirrels do not favor this seed as readily. I wrote an article "Squirrels, a pain in the arse, or an entertaining backyard decide". Quite frankly, althought the squirrels in my yard eat the bird seeds, I still enjoy them and their ability to counteract my anti-squirrel tactics!

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And, feeding birds at your bird feeding station is only one way to attract birds to your yard. It's fun, entertaining, and healthy to create a beautiful and colorful backyard that attracts many different species of birds. Become a serious or casual gardener and choose the specific plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees that attract your best-loved backyard birds. Why not fill your life with bluebirds, warblers, goldfinches, cardinals...whatever area birds you like? Do some research online and discover the top plants for your local bird species and learn special bird feeding and planting tips to attract specific birds.

Begin creating a wildlife-friendly yard, today!

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S believes urban sprawl can be offset by creating wildlife-friendly spaces in America's 25,000,000 lawns, one yard at a time! Click HERE to learn why. A portion of Ad sale revenues will be donated to Monarch Watch. Do you have a wildlife-friendly space? Please Contact us and share it!