Providing the proper types of food for the habitat where you live will attract more birds to your yard. (Courier stock photo)

At this point, spring migration is still just a trickle, but the number of bird species on the move will grow every week until it reaches its peak in early May. As the days continue to get longer, the Arizona Central Highlands will experience a tremendous change in the variety and quantity of bird species at backyard feeders.

You may wonder if there are any changes you should be making in what you’re feeding the birds in your yard. This is an excellent thought. Should you be feeding the same food in April and May that you were feeding in December and January?

For example, millet consumption slows down at backyard bird feeders during the summer months. In winter, we have a lot of birds that prefer millet, such as dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, and chipping sparrows. However, as these species leave in the spring, you may want to use a blend with a different ratio of ingredients to cater to the birds that are here this time of year.

Not all birds eat the same diet. Some species prefer millet, others black oil, or nyjer, safflower or peanut hearts. For the average consumer, knowing what kinds of feed to provide seasonally in his yard is somewhat of a mystery. We take the mystery out of bird feeding.

Where you live affects the variety of birds you can attract to your yard. Most bird species are habitat specific. For example, the habitat in Haisley Homestead is more akin to chaparral, as the dominant plants are scrub oak and juniper. On the other hand, Hidden Valley has more ponderosa pine. Even though these two neighborhoods are adjacent to one another, each of the two neighborhoods will attract different bird species.

One advantage to buying locally processed bird seed blends, unlike box-store bird seed, is local knowledge of the birds that occur in your area. Box store bird seed is the same regardless of where you buy it. If you were to buy chain “X” bird seed, whether in Florida, Texas, Ohio, or Washington, you would get the same bag of bird seed. Large corporations take no thought into habitat or the birds that occur in different parts of the country.

Our blends are so specific, we recommend a different bag of seed for someone living in Timberridge, compared to someone living in Prescott Lakes. We even make seed blends that are species specific. For example, we have customers living in areas where there are numerous cardinals, so we make a cardinal blend.

Chain-store bird seed blends contain a variety of ingredients—some desirable, and many that are not. Poor quality bird seed, with a lot of fillers such as milo, wheat and corn, usually ends up on the ground. Birds kick out of the feeder the ingredients they don’t want to get at the ingredients they do want.

The type of the food you provide in your yard directly impacts the variety of birds you might attract. For example, three oriole species—Scott’s, Bullock’s and hooded—show up this month. However, they are not seed eaters. Providing grape jelly, mealworms and sugar water will help attract them to your yard.

Over the next 4-6 weeks, lazuli buntings will be passing through our area. The best way to attract this species is to provide millet in your bird feeding area. If you want to attract black-headed grosbeaks, you need to use black oil sunflower seeds. There really is a science to feeding birds!

If you have questions on what kinds of food you should feed based on where you live, I invite you to stop in and we’d be happy to help you.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.