Make your own bird treats

By Marilyn McKinley

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

More than one third of all households in the U.S. feed birds, spending close to $3 billion for bird seed!

Since we’re spending that much, we had better do our job right to attract the right birds!

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my bird-feeding over the years. I hope the lessons I’ve learned will help you avoid the following most common mistakes:

-- Using one type of feeder. Many birds will visit platform feeders. Hanging feeders filled with sunflowers will attract nuthatches, chickadees, and cardinals. A thistle feeder will attract finches. Ground feeders like sparrows, doves, juncos, blue jays and cardinals will also feed on ground food. For woodpeckers, use wire suet feeders containing purchased suet cakes or make suet with peanut butter and seeds.

-- Providing only one type of seed. Different seeds attract different birds. Cheap, supermarket bird seed filled with millet, corn, and wheat are not bird favorites. A 50 percent mix of sunflower seeds (unhulled), 35 percent proso white millet, and 15 percent cracked corn is better. We prefer not to include cracked corn in what we feed. It attracts squirrels when we use it.

-- Feeding bread. Don’t do it! Bread is not a natural food for birds. It may be or may become moldy, make birds ill, and attract unwanted wildlife. We have all done it – fed bread to geese and ducks. Stop! Don’t do it. It can cause real problems.

-- Not feeding for all seasons. Feeding may make the difference between survival and death. Birds will increase their visits in bad weather, especially in snow. Smaller species benefit most from winter feeding. If you feed, continue on a steady basis. Birds that usually visit feeders may be slow to adapt to when feeding is discontinued. At a minimum, gradually wean off in May and resume in November.

-- Not protecting feeders. A squirrel-proof feeder is still a dream! Using baffles, hanging wires, or poly vinyl poles (never grease) might be helpful. I admit I like to watch squirrel antics, but it’s expensive entertainment!

-- Not planting for the birds. Adding berry-producing shrubs is a great way to feed birds. Many of our favorite perennial flowers produce seeds that are friendly. Trees provide birds places to escape and hide.

-- Not cleaning the feeders. It is very important to keep the feeding site clean. On a regular basis you should wash the feeders and watering devices with water and a 10 percent bleach solution. Use gloves, an old toothbrush to get into all small spaces, rinse well and dry. Remember - seeds on the ground may attract problems and disease.

-- Not providing water. Birds need a water source through all seasons. Heaters for bird baths are not very expensive.

-- Careless storing of bird seed. Follow the directions – a clean, dry place and in a sealed container. Improper storage can invite insects, moths, mold and rodents.

-- Not taking the time to enjoy your visitors! Put feeders where you can see them and enjoy the birds you attract.

For more information on feeding the birds properly, go to:

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