Cheaper Birdseed

tufted titmouseQuestion: I love feeding the birds over the winter. I have several feeders set up. The problem is, I’ve noticed the price of seed has really gone up and I’m getting frustrated because squirrels and blackbirds are eating most of it. I don’t mind spending for the little birds, but I can’t stand these bullies and scavengers. Any advice?

Answer: Try filling your feeders with safflower seed instead of sunflower seed or mixed seeds. Safflower seeds are small white seeds enjoyed by cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, finches, titmice (shown, tufted titmouse), nuthatches and other favorite birds. Squirrels, blackbirds and grackles do not like the bitter taste of safflower seeds. It’s also one of the cheaper birdseeds you can find.

For best results, switch over gradually—by offering a mix of safflower and whatever you have been putting out—so your favorite birds can adjust to the new taste.


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7 thoughts on “Cheaper Birdseed

  1. The BEST purchase we ever made was the ELIMINATOR (weightactivated) Birdfeeder. Kind of pricey, but the savings in bird seed alone has more than made up for the initial cost. I my opinion, this is the best on the market. You can adjust the ‘weight’ restriction on the feeding perch to keep out not only squirrels, but pesky flocks of grackles & starlings who ravage the feeder in a single day. Plenty falls too the ground, so the pesky birds get to eat ‘leftovers’. I just purchased my second ELIMINATOR … it’s that good!

  2. Safflower is a pricey seed in my area. It does help solve the problem although squirrels can develop a taste for it. Safflower also has a thicker hull than most other seeds and can be difficult for smaller birds to eat. The simplest and cheapest way to deal with the problem is to physically exclude the squirrels and blackbirds. Feeders with weight triggered perches work but my favorite is the cage type of feeder. This can be either built-in or added to an existing feeder. No weights, no springs.
    Also, corn is very attractive to blackbirds, it’s one of their favorite foods. Consider not offering it in any form.
    Have you thought of offering the squirrels their own feeding station away from your bird feeders?

    • Safflower is absolutely a pricey item here in the Midwest. Also, it’s been my experience that squirrels like it as much as anything I’ve put out for birds and squirrels. I buy it and mix it with wild bird seed and sunflower seeds. One very interesting thing, however, is this: before I mixed safflower with the regular seed, I never saw a cardinal. Now, there are several pairs of cardinals who visit my feeders early morning and they are the last visitors at night. AND, since I’ve been growing purple coneflowers in my garden, there are many tiny chickadees who come for the seeds of these easy-to-grow flowers. Many other birds (whose names I do not know) come for the seeds of other flowers whose skeletons I leave standing after the flowers are spent. I’m convinced that this is truly the only way to lessen spending on pricey bird seed. Grow and enjoy the best that nature has available in the way of natives, supplement this with ornamentals whose fruits or flowers or seeds are known to be a draw for birds and then enjoy your “bird” garden year ’round.

  3. I don’t know where the author lives, but in Virginia, safflower is not cheap. But it does solve the squirrel and grackle problem. April’s suggestion of a weight operated feeder is also very good. These feeders do need to be far enough out from the support so the squirrels can’t lean out and avoid the perch.

  4. I add corn and safflower seeds to my regular mix to make it last and I use a feeder that closes when big birds lighton it. There’s always plenty of seed on the ground for big birds and squirrels. I do wish there were fewer sparrows at the feeder.

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