Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stocking Up

Although it isn't quite Feederwatch season, I usually have a feeder up all year. In a couple of weeks, when Project Feederwatch starts, it will be more like 10 feeders. I was completely out of bird food (except suet cakes) so I had to stock up.

I went down to Wild Bird's Unlimited at Smith's Gardentown. A little pricier, but high quality food. Many birders go for the cheap stuff like below. You can buy this seed very inexpensively, but don't.

How do you tell which seed to buy? If you're buying a mixed seed, choose one with as little milo as possible (see the round brown seeds in the picture to the left? That's milo.)

Milo is cheap and relatively light and large, so it is a good filler. However, the birds don't care for it much. If you have a lot of milo in your seed mix, you may think the birds love it because it disappears so quickly. What is happening is the birds are digging through the seed, throwing out the milo and picking out the good stuff they like. You end up with a lot of seed on the ground, leading to mold (unhealthy), more food to attract mice and rats, and relatively little of the seed going into your birds' stomachs. I'm not saying birds don't eat any of the milo; if they are very hungry and food is scarce in the middle of the winter, they will eat more of it. I'm just saying if I am going to spend money on bird food, I want it to end up in their stomachs, not on the ground.

I suggest if you are not familiar with the mix you are buying, try to buy food in a bag you can see some of the mix to evaluate the amount of milo and choose the mix with the least. Atwoods on Loop 11 has a reasonably good mix for a good price, if you want to spend less money. When I am going through tons of mix in the winter, I often do buy some to keep the hit on my wallet down.

Anyway, I went to Wild Birds Unlimited as they have a 15% off sale on bird food until October 31 and got black oil sunflower, millet and peanuts without the shell. I decided to try out the Savers Card for $25, figuring I would save that much over the course of the feeder season. That got me an additional 5% off on the food on sale. That was nearly an additional $6. Since I am predisposed toward not liking to pay for a savers card, I am going to keep a spreadsheet to see if the card is worth the money and will let you know when I at least break even. You can see my haul to the left--the expensive bit was the bag of peanuts. But that one bag will likely be the only one I will need to buy this year.

I also started my Christmas shopping. Wild Birds Unlimited has some really cute bird Christmas ornaments that are very inexpensive as well as other gift ideas for the birders on your shopping list. If you know a birder and are stumped for gift ideas, email me at or wait for an upcoming post with gift ideas and links.

Anyway, time to unload, fill up the two feeders I am running right now, and then back to the workday (sigh.)

Good birding!

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