If you’re going to put a bird feeder outside now that winter is officially here, you have to keep it filled with seed.
That would seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people put out a feeder and then don’t bother to refill it when it is empty.
Many put feeders way up in a tree, requiring a ladder to reach it, and then don’t want to bother when it is cold or after it has snowed. Many lose interest or get too busy or don’t think it’s important.
Believe me, it is very important to the birds.
Luckily, most people who keep a feeder keep it filled. But are they careful about what they fill it with?
I admit to buying cheap birdseed when I first started keeping a feeder. I bought millet - oh, the shame - and wondered why I was drawing a lot of sparrows when I wanted chickadees and cardinals.
Somewhere along the line I read that if you want the greatest variety of birds - the most bang for your buck, if you will - buy black-oil sunflower seed because it provides the fat content a bird needs when it gets cold and regular food sources are gone.
Even then, when I would get sunflower seed I would go somewhere I could get a large bag cheap.
One Saturday I drove over to Scherman Hoffman to do some birding and found a lot of cars parked in the upper lot (the ONLY lot, which shows how long ago that was) getting bags of seed brought to their cars. When I finally got a parking space I discovered one of those cars belonged to one of my friends who, being a NJ Audubon member, always got her seed there during the “Field to Fundraiser” birdseed sale days.
It’s easy to see why this particular seed would be so popular. You can buy 10-, 20- or 50-lb bags of it. It is grown in New Jersey, by New Jersey farmers. Unlike the stuff I’d been getting, it was fresher and bagged in recyclable paper rather than plastic.
Buying bags of sunflower seed - nyjer, cracked corn and varieties of suet are also for sale - through NJ Audubon’s Supports Agricultural Viability and the Environment (SAVE) program raises money for NJ Audubon and helps keep local farmers in business while growing some crops that also support birdlife. You can read more about the program here.
Since I am one of those who tries to get my family local, healthier food when I can, it seemed like a good idea to feed the birds the same way and do some greater good.
The seed is sold at all the NJ Audubon centers and some retailers. You don’t have to wait for the next sale to get the seed - I frequently tax the patience and strength of the Scherman Hoffman staff (even director Mike Anderson!) going in for 50-lb. bags at odd times when I suddenly realize I have less seed than I thought.
You even get a discount if you belong to NJ Audubon. Even better, the birds love the seed and come back for more, like this chickadee above..
Seems like a win-win all around.
Margo D. Beller
S.A.V.E. brand Jersey-Grown Black Oil Sunflower Seed and Jersey-Grown Wood bluebird boxes and hopper feeders are available at NJ Audubon Nature Stores and selected independent retailers. Click the link above for more information.