As soon as it starts getting a little cold, I start thinking about feeding the birds. Although I feed a little all year around, the little gluttons don't get a smorgasboard until November when Project Feederwatch gets underway (unless the weather gets really nasty.)
In this month's issue of National Wildlife, there was an article titled, "For the Birds: Which Seeds are Best?" Not surprisingly, the article states that studies have shown most backyard birds prefer black oil sunflower, white proso millet, nyger, and sunflower chips. You'll note that the seed that seems to represent the major portion of most bird seed sold in the stores (especially the more inexpensive seed) is red milo, not anything most of our birds eat. We have found at Wild Bird Rescue that all birds will leave the red milo until last and eat it only when all the other seed is gone from the bowl. So why is such a high percentage of commercial mixed bird seed made up of red milo? Easy answer, it is cheap and relatively light. When people are shopping for seed, they tend to buy cheap.
An article in Birdscope way back in 1995 documents that red milo is more popular with western birds and ground-feeding birds than others, but you can see even there it isn't preferred above all other seeds. Our birds are easterners.
When I shop for seed, I buy black-oil sunflower and a premium birdseed mix, like Purina. I buy mine at Berend Brothers, because that's where I can find large bags at a decent price. Although more expensive when I buy it, I figure that more of it is going into the birds and less going on the ground to rot, so I am coming out even, or ahead. Another favorite with the birds not mentioned in the article is shelled peanuts. Those I have to buy at Atwoods. And of course, suet cakes, which I usually buy in bulk at Wal-Mart when they have a sale and put them in the freezer until needed.
In the next couple of weeks, I'll be pulling out feeders and cleaning them up in preparation for Project Feederwatch. More about that citizen science project later.