Monday, September 18, 2006

Let the bird feeding begin!

To be politically correct, I should call the bird in the feeder, a chickadee species. I live in a narrow band where both Carollina and black-capped chickadees are found. Scientists are now suggesting that where both are found, the two alleged species will interbreed, and so telling them apart is problematic. They used to say the calls were diagnostic, but no longer. I've never been politically correct; it's a black-capped chickadee. I can see differences in the chickadees that come to the feeder. The Carolina is smaller, and the white behind the ear is slightly grayer or less distinct. The black-capped is just a tad larger and has a bright white patch behind its ear. And usually, their wings are also edged with white,

I set up my bird feeder this weekend. Some people are surprised that I don’t feed the birds all year around. I would if the birds came to the feeders all year, but starting around April, the number of birds coming to the feeder drop way down. Add in a little rain, and the food will mold before it gets eaten. So I just stop feeding.

Mid-September is usually when I start feeding again, though even now I don’t expect many birds yet. Still, I’ve had chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatch, cardinals so far. I just bought some peanuts in the shell, which the blue jays love, so as soon as I add that, I expect they will come too.

I use a food called “Woodpecker.” The same company has one called “Chickadee” too, but my even chickadees like the Woodpecker mix better. The Woodpecker mix is mostly nuts, some quite large, but that doesn’t keep chickadees and titmice from hunting for the biggest nut and taking it back to their favorite tree for eating.

I also add extra sunflower seed and the peanuts, and later in the season, I’ll add a suet cake. I get a great variety of birds to my feeders. Woodpecker is an expensive mix, but little of the food goes to waste, unlike with the cheaper mixes where the birds throw out half or more of it. Most of the cheaper brands of bird seed have lots of cracked corn and millet, which most birds don’t like. That stuff is cheap, though, so they are commonly added to mixes.

It’s been my experience that a better quality of bird seed brings a better quality and variety of birds to the feeders. The only bird that eats cracked corn is mourning doves, and most of them don’t come this deep into the woods. The average bird doesn’t care for cracked corn. I read a study once that showed sunflower seed to be the second favorite seed of virtually every species of bird that will visit a feeder. For cardinals, it was the first choice. So plenty of sunflower seed are a good base for a feed mix.


pablo said...

We use safflower seed already removed from the shell. It attracts all the birds except the starlings. It's a little pricey, but I don't mind.

LauraHinNJ said...

I use that mix, too.

I keep the thistle feeders up all year long for the goldfinches, but they tend to come and go. Love seeing them in their bright colors in summertime.

ChicagoLady said...

I have many mourning doves around here, so the cracked corn doesn't go to waste. In fact, my aunt has mourning doves that actually sit at her feeder to eat, instead of being a ground feeder like normal. As for the millet, the sparrows around here clean up pretty good. They even eat the millet.

But the best sound is the chipping of a cardinal, coming to eat the sunflower seeds.

Carolyn H said...


I use safflower sometimes. It's not always easy to find here, and the birds don't seem to miss it if I don't have it. The nuthatch like it the best.

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...


I tried leaving up the thistle feeder, but the goldfinch don't frequent it in the summer here, either.

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...


The only sparrows I have in winter are song sparrows and white-throated sparrows (usually), and they seem happy without millet, though I don't know which seeds they are eating out of the mix I use.

Carolyn H.