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Wednesday, 25 February 2009 19:31

The Naturalist's Corner: Black oil sunflower seed is king

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One thing became clear during my little bird feeding experiment. If you’re looking for one birdseed that will attract just about any bird, black oil sunflower seed is the bomb.

Remember a few weeks back when, disillusioned about the high price of birdseed, I decided to experiment with more frugal scenarios? I have a few thoughts on the subject but first I want to thank a couple of readers for responding to my plea for help.

Cindy Ramsey from Acworth, Ga., emailed to commiserate with me.

Cindy said she found a little relief through her local Wildbirds Unlimited franchise’s “Daily Saving Club.” I don’t know if all Wildbirds Unlimiteds offer such a plan but it sure wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Charles Hand of Canton gets special recognition for actually taking the time to pen a note and drop it in the mail. Mr. Hand adds microwaveable popcorn and crumpled unsalted crackers to stretch his bird rations. He didn’t mention if the popcorn was popped or unpopped. Hopefully the popcorn is also unsalted and if unpopped, it can be parboiled to soften the kernels some.

My first experiment was a rather dismal failure. I cut the black oil sunflower with cracked corn. Almost every species picked the sunflower seeds out completely before settling on any corn. Even the mourning doves preferred the sunflower. The best part of the corn experiment is that I now have a stash of corn for when the girl and I go to Lake Junaluska to feed the ducks.

Mixing black oil sunflower with generic “mixed” birdseed could help stretch your birdfood-dollar but once again the sunflower seed will be picked out and once it’s gone feeder visitation drops dramatically.

Nyjer thistle is the black oil of the finch world. Put nyjer seed in one feeder and small “finch food” in another and you will have to wait till the thistle is basically gone before there will be any takers at the finch food buffet. Put just the finch food out and you get the occasional interested siskin and/or goldfinch but they quickly migrate over to the sunflower seed.

Here’s the plan I’ve come up with for my feeders. I will purchase black oil sunflower, nyjer and the commercial “mixed” birdseed. But I will decide when and how much the little buggers eat. Just because there are feeders out there doesn’t mean they have to be topped off every time they get a little low.

As I’ve mentioned before, even birds that frequent your feeders get nearly 80 percent of their nutrition from the wild. Your feeders are just a part of their foraging. Most of us feed for our own enjoyment so put food out when you’re gonna be around to enjoy the birds. Morning and evening work best for me, so a little food out for the early bird and then a little dinner. And those feeders don’t have to be full — a couple of cups of sunflower seed, a little mixed seed and a little nyjer will attract a variety of birds. You can add peanut butter and/or suet too. When it’s gone the birds will forage on but if they know there’s gonna be dinner you will get some takers then, too.

And if you’re a late riser and like to putter around between 10 and two, fill your feeders then and it’s my guess that once the birds get accustomed to your buffet hours they will show up for vittles.

And on the “good news” front – I found black oil sunflower seed for $9 for a 25-pound bag at Pioneer Feed and Seed at the Hazelwood exit in Waynesville.

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