KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota Appearance

If you just caught my KARE 11 appearance and wanted to know more on economizing your bird feeding operation, here are some tips (you can also get my book City Birds/Country Birds) and have all of this advice at your fingertips:

The price of many popular bird feeding seeds has gone up due to companies like Frito Lay switching to sunflower oil and many farmers dedicating more land to corn than sunflower. There's just not as much sunflower available for bird feed, bringing the prices higher (not to mention the fuel costs to transport it). If you are only going to purchase one bag of seed, only use black oil, you'll get the most bang for your bird feeding buck.

And don't worry, even small birds like goldfinches will eat black oil sunflower seed!

Avoid mixes that look like this (at least in Minnesota in Wisconsin). Unless you live out west and plan on getting California Quail, this mix will be a waste of money. It may be cheaper than sunflower, but you will get fewer species of birds per dollar with a mix like this.

If you're going to get a mix, it should look like the above--mostly dark in color, a sign that it is chock full of sunflower. Other ways to offer seed and to save on money and birds just kicking it out, is to get a seed cake--seeds held together with gelatin, birds love it and it takes them awhile to eat it. Plus, it's harder for starlings to take over. One of my favorites to offer is the Mr. Bird line and my favorite to put out for the birds is the Pecan Feast.

Nutra-Saff aka Golden Safflower is growing in popularity with chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and grosbeaks. It's not popular with starlings and house sparrows, which will make it last longer in your bird feeders. Talk to your local wild bird specialty store and ask if they carry golden safflower (this is different than the usual plain white safflower, it's got a thinner shell).

A lot of birds love peanuts and mixed nuts out of the shell, but starlings can take that over and finish it in the blink of an eye. If you're going to offer nuts, offer them in the shell. Starlings cannot crack it open, but woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers will be able to eat them.

If you want to offer suet, but have crows and blackbird eating it before the woodpeckers get hold of it, offer the suet in an "upside down suet feeder." Woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches can hang upside down to get access to the suet without any problems, but starlings and crows have a much tougher time (they'll try, but will not be as successful). Keep in mind, that if you switch to an upside down feeder, it may take awhile for the birds to figure out how to use it--maybe a month or two. But once they do, they will be loyal visitors.

Other things you can do include investing long term in your bird feeding. Shop around for clearance fruit bearing trees and plant them. This showy mountain ash is popular with cedar waxwings, robins, and grosbeaks. Also look into red osier dogwood, grey dogwood, chokecherry, and pincherry.

Never underestimate the value of a good brush pile. Maybe you can't keep a tree like this felled oak laying around your yard, but a small brush pile full of branches for birds to hide in makes a great roosting spot for juncoes and tree sparrows in the winter. You might even find a cardinal lurking in there. Don't forget a water source like a heated bird bath too.

All little tips for economizing on your bird feeding budget this winter.