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Bird Food Choices

Here are a few additional tips regarding food items and feeding:

General considerations for feeding birds:
For ground and platform feeders distribute only what is eaten in a day or two at the most. When refilling hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc. make sure any remaining seed is clean and loose in the container. Watch for signs of mold and mildew in the seed or on the feeder. Clean and dry your feeder if signs of mold or mildew are present.

Egg shells:
Egg shells can be an important source of calcium, especially for female birds during nesting. Wash and dry the egg shells, then bake at 200-300 degrees until the edges just start to turn brown. Crush and serve on the ground or a platform feeder.

purple martin female

Female nesting Purple Martins will consume egg shells to help replenish their calcium supply.

Orange and grapefruit halves attract orioles, jays, tanagers and woodpeckers. Chopped raisins, soaked in water to soften, and chopped up apples are popular with many species, including thrushes, mockingbirds, jays.

Blueberries, cranberries (fresh or dried) and dried cherries are also popular with fruit-eating species.

Mealworms are popular with several species and bluebirds are especially fond of them. Mealworms are not always easy to find.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird. Bluebirds love mealworms and will meet you at the door if you feed at the same time each day.

Mixed seed:
There is a variety of good seed blends available. Be careful in purchasing the bags of mixed seed commonly seen in grocery stores and discount stores. Many of these mixes contain large amounts of milo and other seed that may not be popular with the birds in your area. Check the bird feeding chart in this section for species and food preferences.

Some seed mixes are rich in a variety of quality seeds and fruit. Fruit may include dried blueberries or cherries. These quality mixes are most often available through stores specializing in bird feeding products.

Sunflower seed:
Sunflower is the best all around food. Sunflower hearts eliminate dropped hulls but are expensive. Black oil sunflower is easy for birds to open and contains a large kernel.  Some weak-billed birds cannot open striped sunflower seeds.

Suet cakes are inexpensive and easy to use. They may be mixed with peanut butter, chopped peanuts, sunflowers or other seed.

Suet cake with seeds

Suet cake with seeds. Suet cakes are sold in blocks and served in a wire cage.

Peanut butter mixes of various kinds can also be used a suet-substitute.

Shelled and unshelled peanuts are popular with a variety of species, including woodpeckers, jays and nuthatches.

Store your seed in a cool, dry location. Trash cans with a tight lid make an ideal storage container. Do not feed seed or grain that has become moldy or covered with mildew.

Fresh water:
In many areas the most effective addition to your yard for attracting birds is a birdbath. Birdbaths can be enhanced with drippers and misters. Keep the water fresh. Clean the birdbath on a regular basis to eliminate contamination.

Birding Quick Hits

Blue Jays do Johnny Appleseed one better.  After the retreat of the last ice age, oak trees spread back north faster than might have been expected.  There is speculation that Blue Jays helped the process by caching acorns underground, some of which grew into new trees.