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Sun, Nov. 17

Quality birdseed blends will bring a variety of birds to your yard

Frequently, customers will come to Jay's Bird Barn and mention they aren't getting any birds at their feeders. Invariably, when I ask what kind of seed they are using, I am told they are feeding a seed blend containing milo. I tell customers that the type of feeder they are using is not nearly as important as what they put in the feeder. Good quality seed blends containing premium ingredients such as black-oil sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, millet, split peanuts, safflower, and cracked corn will attract a wide variety of birds. Seed blends with milo and wheat will send the birds packing.

Milo is the most common ingredient in bird seed mixes purchased at grocery stores, mass-merchandisers and big box stores. Milo is a sorghum product and is not the seed of choice for any of our local wild birds.

While some wild birds such as mourning doves will eat milo, it is eaten more as a last resort when all of the good ingredients from the seed blend are gone. Milo is the seed which feeder birds kick out of the feeder. Manufacturers of bird seed blends use milo as a filler because of its size, weight and cost. Seed blends with milo are less expensive but unfortunately most of the seed ends up on the ground and goes to waste.

My recommendation is to stay away from seed blends containing milo. What should you feed to attract a wide variety of birds? Black-oil sunflower seed is the most common seed used to attract wild bird species. However, when fed in the shell there is a lot of waste material from the hulls of the sunflower. This can be avoided by buying sunflower chips, where the nut has been removed from the shell. Black-oil sunflower can be fed in tube, hopper and platform feeders. Black-oil sunflower is preferred by finches, jays, nuthatches, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and other "feeder" birds – birds which typically perch on a feeder to get seed.

White-proso millet is the second most common seed used to attract birds and is primarily for ground feeding birds such as quail, dove, towhees, sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and in the spring, lazuli buntings. Millet is usually fed by either broadcasting the seed directly on the ground, or by placing it on a ground "platform" feeder. Millet is the most abundant ingredient used in mixed birdseed where many seed ingredients are combined together to create a seed "blend". However, millet can be purchased and fed by itself and not used as part of a seed blend.

People who feed wild birds often complain about their birds kicking seeds out of the feeder down onto the ground. When birds that prefer to feed on hanging bird feeders knock millet onto the ground, this is actually beneficial to the ground feeding birds who prefer to feed down on the ground and not up on the feeder. Millet is an excellent seed to offer wild birds as it does not require cracking open by the birds and can be eaten quickly by ground feeders who are always skittish and on the lookout for predators.

In future articles we will look at the benefits of providing other seed types such as thistle. For more information on bird feeding and wild bird seed come by Jay's Bird Barn and pick up a free copy of a seed preference chart.

If you have specific questions which you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit these questions to Jay's Bird Barn, P.O. Box 11471, Prescott, AZ 86304, or email your questions to jaysbirdbarn@juno.com. Until next week, happy birding!

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