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Richmond Audubon Society

Richmond, Virginia

For The Birds: Bird Seed

Why feed birds?

Mainly people start feeding birds to make observing them easier. When they see that the results are rewarding they tend to go further by adding different types of feeders, planting to attract birds, adding water sources, ponds, and bird boxes. This helps provide both food and habitat for certain species of birds. Besides, it?s fun!

Certain birds are only attracted to platform feeders, such as doves, cardinals, jays, juncos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and some sparrows. Usually the same birds that are attracted to tube feeders will also go to platform feeders. Almost any type of seed can be used, as well as fruit (for orioles), and suet. If a baffle is not used, safflower seed is best because it is not usually interesting to squirrels. Otherwise, peanuts, sunflower seed, or other large seeds are preferable. There are two types of sunflower seed: black oil and striped. Most birds prefer black oil sunflower seed. Some birds, such as cardinals, will eat millet, but the disadvantages of millet are that it attracts House Sparrows, and that it is very fine. Only bin feeders and certain tube feeders will contain particles this small. Corn is another seed, but this attracts mostly crows and grackles.

Seed types and storage - For the most part it is simpler to stick with black oil sunflower, safflower, and thistle. Why store more types than necessary? Storage should be in a closed container such as a heavy plastic or metal trashcan, or heavy 5-gallon plastic drum with lid. Don?t store in hot or humid places, and if left outside, take extra precautions to prevent damage by critters or water. All seed will become wormy after about a year even if the best conditions are available. It?s best not to buy seed at closeout prices, because storage time will be shorter. An option to storing all three seed types for a year or more is to choose a plan in which your dealer supplies fresh seed when you need it.

© 2007 Richmond Audubon Society