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?