Bird feeding... This post is in response to a reader's inquiry.
We have eleven winter feeders all together: five sunflower seed feeders, two Nyjer thistle seed feeders, one platform feeder, one suet feeder, and two feeders dedicated to “no mess” seed. Except for three of the sunflower seed feeders, my feeders are all Droll Yankee products – I've found them to be more durable than any others I've tried; most last for at least five years and some we've had for over ten years.
In the summer we add several hummingbird feeders to our array of feeders. None of our hummer species winter over, so they come down for the winter.
We go through quite a bit of seed in the winter time, and drastically less in other seasons, though it never goes to zero. Right at the moment monthly seed consumption is about 120 pounds of black oil sunflower seed, 80 pounds of cracked corn (on the platform feeder and scattered on the driveway), 60 pounds of Nyjer thistle seed, 25 pounds of “no mess” seed, and 2 pounds of suet mix.
Except for the no-mess seed, my local source is Tractor Supply Company – they have the best prices locally, and the seed is all good quality. The “no mess” seed I have no local source for, so once or twice a year we head down to Wild Birds Unlimited in Salt Lake City and stock up. We don't get the “no mess” seed because it doesn't make a mess, though that's true. We get it because I'd read that in extreme cold temperatures the wild birds can more easily get the calories they need. I can't independently verify that, but I can tell you that the consumption of it is almost zero except when the temperature drops below about 20°F – and then the colder it gets, the more gets eaten. A working hypothesis is that the birds actually prefer the seeds au naturel, but when it gets too bitterly cold and they need more calories, they'll go for the avian fast food. We see all sorts of small songbirds on those “no mess” feeders; so far as I can tell there's no species that prefer it over the sunflower seeds.
The Nyjer thistle seed feeders are dominated by goldfinches (both Lesser's and American), though they are occasionally visited by chickadees and house finches. Woodpeckers, magpies, and flickers are the most common visitors to the suet feeder; the occasional chickadee can be found there as well. The scattered cracked corn brings hordes of juncos, a few pigeons and doves, and deer. Magpies and doves seem to prefer cracked corn on the platform feeder, along with a lot of chickadees. The sunflower seed brings many different species, but more house finches than anything else.
My mom would have loved to have seen our birds feeders, but she never got the chance...