Buying birdseed seems simple enough – you can buy it practically anywhere – at the grocery store, drug store, hardware store, feed store, big box store and at discount stores. You might wonder, is there really much of a difference in all of the different kinds of birdseed available at each of these stores? Isn’t birdseed just basically the same, regardless of where you buy it?
Depending where you buy your birdseed, the basic building block for seed blends is usually milo, followed by millet, then perhaps some cracked corn or black-oil sunflower seed. Better quality seed blends contain ingredients such as peanut pieces, safflower, sunflower chips, and maybe even some gray-stripe sunflower.
Really gourmet birdseed blends might be labeled something like “Fruit Berry and Nut Blend” and contain a mixture of seeds, tree nuts and fruit. Such a blend might have pecans, almonds, walnuts, pistachio pieces and possibly raisins, papaya dices, cranberries and a fruit medley such as apricots, pears and pluots.
What is the advantage of buying higher-quality birdseed blends over inexpensive blends with filler ingredients? Birdseed blends high in filler content typically ends up down on the ground – birds knock the filler ingredients out of the feeder.
Purchasing seed blends with higher quality, more desirable ingredients, results in a wider variety of birds and a larger quantity of birds visiting your feeders. Not only are the birds benefited by quality food, but you get the satisfaction of seeing more bird activity in your yard, which, after all, is the main reason you are feeding birds in the first place.
The truth is, higher quality bird food is more expensive, but it has the added advantage of better nutritional value for wild birds. A bag of sunflower chips or a bag of nyjer seed is higher in fats, oils and protein than is a bag of seed with filler ingredients, such as milo.
Perhaps you have wondered whether the added expense of buying better-quality birdseed is “worth it.” The analogy I use when talking to customers about birdseed – that is readily understood – is a comparison to purchasing pet food. When you buy dog or cat food, do you buy the least expensive brand available, with the most grains (filler), or do you try to buy quality pet food that is nutritionally balanced?
Unfortunately, that is exactly how a lot of people buy birdseed – they buy the least expensive kind they can find, and as a result get poor results – not realizing that a better seed blend would bring them much better results in terms of more birds (and less weeds).
I realize feeding outdoor birds is not the same as feeding a beloved pet. However, if you are spending money, time and effort to feed wild birds, you are probably genuinely interested in not just feeding them, but also caring for them in the sense of providing food that is nutritional and beneficial.
If you were to visit a box store in Florida, or Texas, or Washington, you would discover that they offer the exact same seed blends at all of their stores. When you stop and think about it, though, do the same varieties of birds that occur in Florida also occur in Texas or in Washington? The answer, of course, is no. When buying birdseed, it is best to try to stay away from filler ingredients – such as milo – and to buy a blend that is formulated for the area where you live.
Until next week, Happy Birding!