Change of Seasons, Change of Bird Feed

Chickadee feeding on suet
Chickadee cracking a millet seed

For the last year, I’ve been setting out a millet-based feed for the local wildlife. But to be honest, the year-round titmice didn’t like it very much, and only wanted the sunflower bits. They threw those tiny red and white millet kernels all over the ground, and so summer was spent fighting off millet germination. I already have enough problems fighting off invasive Russian thistle and other prairie grasses in my semi-cultivated, English-style garden (and by English-style, I mean messy, sporadic plantings of flowers, fruits, and vegetables). At the beginning of autumn, I swapped the millet seed for assorted nut pieces. The new seed mixture has sunflower seeds, peanuts, pistachios, and pepitas. I assumed it would be attractive to my typical feeder birds: chickadees, nuthatches, titmice. I even spread some on the ground for the migrating sparrows and the perky California towhees. And oh boy, do they love it! Best decision ever! I even have juncos and doves moving in!

Male lesser goldfinch on a feeder hook

There was one surprising species that the new feed drew in. Even when I think I understand the birds in my own backyard, I’m still sometimes surprised. There is a rowdy flock of lesser Goldfinch that frequent my patch, mostly because of the spiny sow thistle that grows in the orchard next door. I have several Nyger socks hanging for them, but as soon as I put out the new nut-based feed, the goldfinches abandoned the Nyger seed in preference for the peanuts. It didn’t even occur to me, being in a rather temperate climate where dandelions and other weedy flowers grow year-round, that maybe the goldfinches adapt in the winter, too. Even they prefer the fattier, more caloric nut pieces during the cooler months. I’ll keep this feed out through the winter, but I’m curious to see if I should switch again in the summer.

Nuthatches in the garden, with an upcycled Starbucks cup as a feeder

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