I have been enjoying our winter weather — what a blessing it has been to receive so much rain and snow! Last winter was so dry. If I recall correctly, I don’t think we even received two inches of precipitation from January all the way to the first of July. Last week’s Valentine’s Day storm was incredible — I measured exactly 2 inches of rain in our rain gauge just from that one storm!

The severity of our winter weather influences my attitude and actions on how and what I feed the birds in my yard. As you might imagine, I take bird feeding seriously. I feel that if an individual is going to take on the responsibility of feeding birds, then it should be done correctly.

When we work with customers who are buying bird seed, we share information about the quality of our seed. I often use the analogy of owning a pet. I ask customers if they have a cat or dog. If they reply in the affirmative, I ask them if they buy the cheapest cat or dog food they can buy. As you might expect, the answer is usually a resounding ‘no’.

I believe individuals who feed birds should consider what they are feeding to the wild birds in their yard. Is it nutritious? Does the seed blend contain filler ingredients that the birds kick out of the feeder which ends up all over the ground? Do you look at the nutritional value on the label?

If you buy bird seed at a box store, it is typically mixed by one manufacturer for all of the stores in their chain. So whether you live in Florida, Ohio, Texas, or Washington, you are getting the exact same kind of bird seed. This is the case even though the habitats are very different and the types of birds are also very different from one place to another.

We make our bird seed blends right here in Prescott. We contract with Yavapai Exceptional Industries (YEI) who employs adults with disabilities. Each blend is formulated for the different habitats that occur

in the Arizona Central Highlands. The workers at YEI make our bird seed blends on a weekly basis using our proprietary recipes. The seed is fresh and contains no filler ingredients. We even send samples of our seed blends to a lab to get a professional guaranteed analysis so we can label our bags accordingly.

I was in a box store earlier this week and their “classic” bird seed blend has 9 percent protein and 4 percent fat. By comparison, the protein in our custom seed blends ranges from 16 to 21 percent and the fat content is between 19 and 38 percent! I don’t know about you, but when I think about the birds enduring our winter weather, being out in the cold 24/7 enduring sub-freezing temperatures in the rain and snow, I feel good about giving them quality food that is also nutritious.

I also looked at the suet cakes in the box store. One had 4 percent protein. Our peanut butter suet cake has 12 percent! One product I provide in my yard — especially in winter — are Mr. Bird Seed and Nut cakes and cylinders. They’re made in Texas, and the first ingredient is tree nuts, followed by black oil sunflower seeds. The protein is 17 percent and the fat is 44 percent!

This particular product is used by a variety of wintering birds, such as yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. As you consider what you are feeding, I encourage you to provide the birds with a healthy, nutritious diet—just some food for thought.

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff.  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.