Flocking to the Feeders

I can’t get enough of birds in the garden during these winter months! Which brings up the question: What should you put out to keep your feathered friends happy?


The number one answer is black-oil sunflower seed, either in the shell or hulled. Just about every backyard bird loves sunflower seed and will clean you out repeatedly. You can toss it on the ground, put it in tray feeders, or fill tube feeders with it. Hulled seed is neater, since you won’t have shell debris to clean up. It also attracts some birds you might not expect, such as bluebirds.

Next up in my personal favorites list is shelled peanuts. Woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and plenty of other birds adore peanuts. Other nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, can also be used. I offer peanuts in two types of feeders: a tube feeder, which the woodpeckers particularly like to use, and in small trays for the tiny backyard birds.

Nyjer seed is great for attracting finches – but if you are worried about the expense, consider sunflower seeds: my goldfinches go through gallons of hulled sunflower seed each winter.

Another staple in my bird buffet is suet. The woodpeckers can’t get enough of it! You can buy suet blocks, or you can make your own – there are dozens of easy recipes online. If you make your own suet, or if you crumble up store-bought suet, you don’t even need to buy a feeder. Simply press the suet onto a branch or on pine cones and hang up your “all natural” feeder.

This year, the suet I am putting on a branch is disappearing much faster than the suet in the feeder I bought. The woodpeckers seem to feel much more at home on the branch, and it is their preferred feeding station.

 Okay, if you’re not squeamish (as I am), consider … bugs. Such as mealworms. Remember that a lot of birds – bluebirds, titmice, nuthatches, etc. – are insect-eaters by preference. Personally, I can’t get past the ick-factor!

There are other options, too, such as corn, millet, and safflower. Fruit can also be put out if the weather is warm enough. 

Then there’s my mother, whose favorite feathered friends are her flock of crows. She regularly puts out hotdogs, noodles, leftover Chinese food, pizza crusts, and whatever else might be in the house.

But no baked beans. The crows don’t like it.

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