I’m going to the birds around here

As I sit here in the family room doing whatever it is at the particular time of day, I see all these little birds on the patio, right outside the sliding glass doors, madly pecking in the dry cat food that is kept out there for the various neighborhood felines. The 20 or so birds are making a terrible mess of the food, scattering it all over the place. Although I enjoy watching the birds close up, I’m not fond of this mess.

My neighbor and I put our heads together about all the birds and she figures she needs to refill her bird feeder which may draw some of the little critters away. I feed the squirrels in the pear tree out back, and notice the birds will gather there, too, depending on what’s being served that day. She tells me that the birds like millet, which I have, so I start a mix of millet, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds for the birds with walnuts and almonds thrown in for the squirrels.

Then I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about feeding the local birds. Turns out, the millet was a good idea. Here are their recommendations:

Millet: Millet is a small white seed, with white proso millet the most common in mainstream blends. Do not put millet in feeders. Birds that feed from perches do not eat it. Instead, scatter millet on the ground for dark-eyed juncos, sparrows and towhees, the occasional groups of mourning doves and quail, and, of course, the inevitable squirrel.

Black oil sunflower: This is the favorite seed of all perching birds. It attracts beautiful house finches, purple finches, blackheaded grosbeaks, oak titmice, stellar and scrub jays. On the ground beneath your feeder, the cracked shells and their seeds will draw house sparrows and their cousins, to feed on the ground.

Cracked corn: If you live out in the country, cracked corn can draw quail and wild turkeys. Don’t be surprised if you get some deer “by accident” (it is illegal to intentionally feed deer).

Nyjer: This gourmet seed, also called thistle seed, can attract a swarm of beautiful lesser gold finches, as well as American gold finches and pine siskins.

Safflower: Like millet, safflower is a white seed, but it is elongated, or football shaped. It is the favorite of chickadees (and in the Eastern United States, cardinals). Chickadees are most common along the coastal ranges and in the Santa Cruz Mountains; otherwise, not a popular choice.

The writer tells of a bird watcher who has come up with what is supposedly the favorite food mix for the avian set: black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, pieces of peanuts and a little millet. I only have a few peanuts so I chop them up and dump them on top of the mixture I’ve already put in the pear tree. A huge blue jay is my first partaker. Then the other little birds come flying in. My hope is that they will stay out of the cat food and quit making a mess on the patio.

Do you feed your local wildlife?

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/article/The-sweet-science-of-birdseed-4284975.php#ixzz2LCfdHgCD


11 responses to “I’m going to the birds around here

  1. I don’t feed the birds because we have always had cats so I felt like feeding birds would be luring them into a trap since our cats love to “play” with them. I have friends who are bird-watchers and feed them so they can enjoy the visual. We also have a dentist who keeps bird feeders outside the window in each room. When you are in the chair, you can see them. Supposedly it is relaxing as are the TVs on the wall.

  2. I kept bird feeders for five years until I moved into a different apartment. I still see plenty of birds but stopped feeding them myself because I was tired of the constant mess. I had to clean up three times a day! 🙂

    • That’s why I wanted to keep the birds out in the tree, not on my patio. They are very messy, but out there, in the yard, the mess doesn’t matter so much.

  3. I don’t, because of the mess. But there are plenty of neighbors who do, fortunately not in my quad — again “fortunately” because of the mess, and there is a community garden where residents are encouraged to leave feed for various wildlife. And P.S. an interesting documentary is coming up on PBS called “A Murder of Crows” that indicates birds remember who is nice to them and who is not. I find that fascinating, plan to watch and thought you might like to know.

    • Yeah, I don’t want the birds right outside my door. That was the problem with cat food feeding frenzies. They were close enough for me to see their details, but they made such a mess scattering bits of food all over. I like them better out in the tree. I can still see them, and the mess stays out in the yard.

  4. I gave up feeding them as the squirrels were competing for the food and busted my birdfeeder

    • The squirrels like the nuts I put out but aren’t fond of the seeds. They seem to be working in harmony out there in that tree. Oh, and the squirrel population has been downsized in the last few days by a couple of hawks who came by for takeout.

  5. I am crazy about birds and over time I have learned how to identify them and put out the foods they like. I have to watch what I do however, as rodents also like bird food. I imagine some rodents of one kind or another are also getting into your cat food. Dianne

    • We had a few mice around the place, but I think the neighborhood cats (or perhaps the hawks) have thinned their ranks, too. The opossums come each night and eat the cat food and make a huge mess in the water dish as they always wash up after dinner.

  6. Yes it can be messy..I have mulch under the feeders in the tree so I can clean it up in the spring and out some fresh..I wouldn’t scatter any seed as it just become contaminated. I have ground feeders that have millet in them for the dark-eyed juncos and doves and empty at night so as not to attract mice, but we have hawks, owls and coyotes that will take them. Squirrels won’t eat millet and most of them will not eat safflower seeds but cardinals love them and so do doves. The best all around is black-oil sunflower as everything likes it except the juncos who can’t open it. I have a lot of info on my blog or if you have any questions..I would be happy to help..Michelle

  7. Pingback: Feeding the neighborhood and the soul | Dkzody's Weblog

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