Birdseed 101: Not all birdseed is created equal
Our slogan here at Jay's Bird Barn is "We specialize in bringing wild birds to your backyard." How do we do this? By selling quality backyard wild bird products such as customized seed blends formulated for the variety of habitats that occur throughout northern Arizona.
While we strive to help people invite nature into their yard, sometimes folks come to our store seeking advice on how to get rid of the four-legged variety of nature, such as squirrels, woodrats (also known as 'packrats'), chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, deer and javelina.
Many species of mammals are attracted to birdseed - in addition to those already mentioned, we frequently hear reports of foxes, coyotes, and even cottontails eating birdseed!
What are some solutions for discouraging the four-legged critters such as skunks and javelina? First and foremost, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of feeding good-quality grain products that are actually preferred and eaten by wild birds.
Unknowingly, many people with wildlife issues complicate the situation and attract unwanted critters to their yard by feeding grains that are undesirable to birds. Birds are picky eaters - they selectively remove from the feeder the desirable ingredients while knocking out of the feeder all of the stuff they don't want.
At some point in your bird feeding history, you have probably had the experience where you have had a pile of milo on the ground below your feeder. The birds ignore it, but nocturnal mammals love it. Having a lot of seed down on the ground that goes uneaten by the birds is going to attract things like javelina, skunks and packrats.
How do you avoid this situation? Feed ingredients that the birds actually eat! Provide a seed mix with good-quality ingredients including black-oil sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, peanut pieces, safflower, and white-proso millet (not milo.) Less of the bird seed will wind up down on the ground - and what does fall onto the ground will actually get cleaned up by ground-feeding birds.
Wild birdseed mixes sold in big box stores are not formulated for any particular habitat - it is a generic mix. The same blend of ingredients is sold in all of their stores scattered across the nation, whether it be a store in Florida, Michigan or Arizona. It is not realistic to assume that a generic mix of birdseed is going to work in every habitat, since you will not have the same birds in Florida as you are going to have in Michigan or Arizona.
Even within the Central Highlands region of Arizona we have an amazing diversity of habitats, and the types of birds found in each of these habitats is different. That is why we carry so many different seed blends - each blend is formulated to appeal to different kinds of birds that you would expect to find in different habitats. One blend is for oak/chaparral settings, another is for forested areas. There is one for suburban settings, and another for ground-feeding birds, and so forth.
Another way to prevent seed from falling onto the ground is to utilize either a seed catcher or to install a tray under your hanging feeders.
Whether it is birds or mammals you are attracting to your yard, I do hope you are enjoying observing the wonder and beauty of nature in your yard. We are certainly blessed to live in an area with such an abundance of wildlife. Happy Birding!
If you have specific questions or issues related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, you can submit them to Jay's Bird Barn, 1046 Willow Creek Road, Suite 105, Prescott, AZ 86301 or log onto www.Jays BirdBarn.com and click on Ask Eric, which will link you with my e-mail address Eric@JaysBirdBarn.com.
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn and has been an avid birder for over 40 years.