[Tweeters] Finch seed

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 12 17:58:07 PST 2020

Dear Steven and Tweeters,
Various finches have been visiting my feeders in rural Skagit County for the last 18 years. Most of the time, I stick to black-oil sunflower seed in the shell. Fred Meyer's usually has it at a good price, even better if it's on sale. I also buy it from Skagit Farmers Supply; there are presumably similar stores in the Seattle area. Almost any species of "feeder" bird will eat it, no questions asked.
Over the years, I have had Common Redpolls and Cassin's Finches at my feeders, along with the more common American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, House Finches, Purple Finches, and Evening Grosbeaks. Red Crossbills have visited my yard numerous times, and a Pine Grosbeak came by once, but neither of those species has been seen at my feeders yet.
I don't mind the mess of the sunflower shells on the ground, but some fastidious lawn owners might find it too messy. I think the shelled sunflower seed would be the way to go for such folks, but one must pay for that cleanliness. Sweeping up with rake or a broom works well, too, and does not cost anything, except for muscular exertion.
Last week I decided to splurge and get some fancy seed from Skagit Wild Bird Supply, which is on Memorial Highway, west of Mount Vernon. It was expensive, but good. The mixture included black-oil sunflower seed in the shell, plus shelled sunflower seed, white millet, and I think a few nuts as well (peanuts?). Within hours, there was a flock of 60 Pine Siskins devouring the stuff!
I do have a "thistle seed" or "nyjer seed" feeder, but I don't often fill it. This seed is expensive, and it tends to get moldy in the rainy climate up here, at least during this time of year. I also have a problem with immense numbers of Red-winged Blackbirds that descend upon the feeders. They will devour ten bucks worth of "thistle seed" in a few minutes. The cloth "sock" feeders are one way to dispense this seed; at my place, the Red-winged Blackbirds tear the socks to shreds, so those do not work for me. I use a feeder made out of wire mesh for this seed; the plastic tube feeders allow the "thistle" seed to get moldy even faster, at least in our rainy clime.

I was chatting recently with a lady up near Darrington; she has a huge bird-feeding operation, and gets all kinds of rarities in her yard. She told me she gets her seed at Costco. I have had mixed results with bird seed from Costco; sometimes it contains a lot of red millet, a seed which very few (if any) wild birds will eat. Other times the Costco seed is quite good. My chickens usually end up eating the red millet, after the blackbirds and jays have knocked it onto the ground. White or "proso" millet is a good seed for attracting sparrows. Finches eat it, too. I don't understand how the market has allowed red millet to continue being included in bird seed mixes--the stuff is the bird-feeding equivalent of the lamest school lunch on the monthly menu!
Another friend of mine has special cages around some of her feeders. This allows the siskins, goldfinches, chickadees, and other wee birds to get in and feed, but excludes the big, gluttonous jays and blackbirds. I keep thinking that I should use my old wire rabbit pen to enclose a feeder or two, but have been too indolent to try this experiment.
It is a great idea to add a suet feeder to the set-up. I used to make my own suet. I'd collect all my bacon drippings and other fatty meat drippings in a coffee can, which I'd keep in the freezer. I'd bore a few one-inch diameter holes in a small firewood log, say three inches in diameter, stuff the holes full of fat, and hang the thing from a tree. I also make suet by melting the bacon grease and pouring it into an old plastic suet pack--the ones that they sell in the bird-food section. If you eat a lot of lipidinous flesh, this is way cheaper than buying suet. On the other hand, if you wait for the suet packs to go on sale, you can usually get it for 99 cents each, and then you don't have to go slopping around with grease! Also, you might avoid an infarction for a few extra years.
Gone are the days when the neighborhood butcher would give away big slices of suet, I'm afraid! My mom used to put that stuff into an old plastic mesh onion sack, and hang it from a tree.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch

On Saturday, December 12, 2020, 02:29:30 PM PST, Steven Dammer <dammerecologist1990 at gmail.com> wrote:

Hey Tweeters,
So I'm finally getting around to buying a bird feeder since it's been on my to-do list for years. I'm up in North Ballard/Crown Hill area, and I was curious what seed seems to be the most successful for all those hungry finches? Anyone have any particular luck with one vs. the other?
Steven D._______________________________________________
Tweeters mailing list
Tweeters at u.washington.edu

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