The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

September 30, 2012

Matching bird food to feeders

CAMERON — The bird feeding season is upon us, and invariably questions about which foods and feeders are best fill my mail box. Here’s a preemptive effort to answer some of those questions.

If you are new to feeding birds or you just want to keep it simple, offer black-oil sunflower seed in a high quality tube feeder made by Droll Yankees or Aspects. I have used tubes made by these manufacturers for more than 20 years.

Black-oil sunflower seed is the single food that attracts the greatest variety of seed-eating birds. Its thin shell is easy to crack, and the meat has a high oil (energy) content. In fact, black-oil sunflowers are grown primarily as a source of the sunflower oil sold in grocery stores.

Striped sunflower seed also attracts many seed-eating birds, but its heavier shell is more difficult to crack for smaller birds. It’s a favorite of cardinals, grosbeaks, and blue jays. Offer striped sunflower seeds in tubes, on platform feeders, or in hopper feeders.

Many manufacturers make excellent hopper and platform feeders. Base your selection on appearance and the quality of construction. I prefer those made from 100 percent recycled plastic that simulates wood and weathers well.

Hulled sunflower seeds are more expensive because the hulls have been mechanically removed. But there is no mess and no waste; every kernel is eaten. The hulls of in-shell sunflower seeds make up as much as 45 percent of the weight of product, so there’s a good bit of waste. Despite the higher price, I think sunflower kernels are the best value in bird food.  But because the hulls have been removed, they must be kept dry. Gold Crest’s All-Weather feeder is the only truly weather-proof feeder I can recommend.

Nyjer, the tiny black seeds often incorrectly called “thistle,” attracts goldfinches, house finches, pine siskins, and purple finches. Because nyjer is imported from Africa and southeast Asia, it’s more expensive than sunflower seed, but its high oil content makes it great winter food. Offer nyjer in a tube feeder specifically designed with tiny feeding ports for finches.

Nuts are another more expensive bird food, but their appeal to species such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers justifies the expense. Peanuts, walnuts, and almonds are the more familiar nuts that are commonly found it better quality nut mixes. Nuts must also be protected from rain and snow. The ideal nut feeder is Droll Yankee’s Big Top.  It is a bowl style feeder protected from above by a large dome. It lacks perches so only strong-footed clinging birds can access the feeding ports.

White millet is a great seed for ground feeders such as song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, towhees, doves, and juncos. But don’t put millet in elevated tube or bowl style feeders. Birds that use these feeders such as woodpeckers and chickadees rarely eat millet. Instead scatter millet on platform feeders or even on the ground. And remember that millet is usually the dominant ingredient in many bird seed mixes.

Also, read the ingredients labels found on seed mixes. Don’t buy mixes that include milo (sorghum) or cereal grains such as wheat and oats. These are filler seeds that birds rarely eat.

Finally, suet is a favorite of woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. Best offered in inexpensive plastic-coated wire baskets, suet is high energy animal fat. It is available commercially in blocks, or you can easily make your own.

My favorite suet recipe is “Martha Sargent’s No-melt Peanut Butter Suet.” Melt and blend one cup of lard and one cup of chunky peanut butter (buy a cheap generic brand) over low heat, then stir in two cups of quick-cook oats, two cups of cornmeal, one cup of white flour and 1/3 cup of sugar. And feel free to add a handful of sunflower chips, peanuts and/or raisins.

Pour the mixture into a flat container about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place in the freezer about an hour, then cut blocks sized to fit your suet basket. Place a piece of wax paper between the blocks, then stack, bag, and store in the freezer. It keeps for months, and the birds love it.

— Send questions/comments to

Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033,

or via e-mail to sshalaway@aol.com

1
Text Only
Outdoors
  • Some books for the rest of summer

    Stretching out in a hammock with a good book is a great way to relax on a warm summer afternoon. Here are a few titles that have recently caught my eye.

    July 27, 2014

  • Creating a week to remember

    After my traveling shoes were placed neatly beside the door, it was time to spend some much needed time around home.

    July 27, 2014

  • There are some changes on the way

    Hunters who have found themselves driving out of their way to check in a deer, turkey, or bear will no longer have to waste the time or gas starting in 2015. 

    July 27, 2014

  • The cure for the summertime blues: Go camping

    In case you haven’t noticed we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 26, 2014

  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
Helium
AP Video
Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways