Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birdfeeding on the Cheap

It seems all the homesteading and gardening bloggers have seed orders much on their minds these days. It's also brass monkeys cold outside where I live. (Today's high will be 21F.) It's time to retrieve one of the sunflower seed heads I saved last summer for the birds that overwinter here. I thought I'd mention this now, while some folks are mulling their plans for this year's garden. Most sunflowers both provide abundant nectar to bees, and can be saved to provide a valuable food resource for birds in the harshest months of the year. Aside from that, I think they're the most cheerful flowers ever.

Not too pretty, is it? But believe me, the birds think it's gorgeous.

The seed heads from sunflowers are ready to save when the face of the flower points downward, the petals have dropped, and the green fringe around the outside begins to turn pale. If you leave them on the stalk too long, the squirrels and the birds will help themselves to the seeds in summer. I cut them with about 8" of stalk attached to the head, so that they're easy to handle and there's a good way of attaching them to the feeder. My method for drying the heads consists of nothing more than laying them on an open shelf in the garage and leaving them there until January. Food preservation for birds.

There are many types of sunflower, and the size and shape of the seeds that they produce will affect which types of birds can make use of the seeds. Beak shape determines a bird's ability to manipulate and crack the shells of various seeds. If there's a species that you are particularly interested in feeding, you'll need to know something about its diet, and then select an appropriate sunflower variety to match it.

I grow sunflowers that produce fat pale seed shells with gray stripes. In my area, this tends to attract mostly titmice, with a few chickadees, and the occasional finch. At least I think that's the lineup we get here. I'm far from an expert on birds. Some of them have to work quite a bit to open those large oily seeds. Other types of sunflower set very small black seeds that more species of birds can handle.

I simply use long twist ties to attach the dried seed heads to a trellis near the window of our living room. I enjoy watching the birds pick at the seed head. Some of them seem to keep regular hours each day, so that I see them during a particular half-hour in late morning and never else. When the seed head has been emptied I replace it with another. I like being able to help out the wildlife with little to no expense on my part, especially in the harshest months of the year.

If you enjoy feeding birds and haven't yet finalized your seed order for this year, you might think about including a sunflower or two in your 2009 garden.


Tracy said...

I grew Skyscraper Sunflowers last summer and the birds devoured the seeds so there were none to save! It is a great idea though!

Anonymous said...

you have so many good ideas here. i'm glad i found your blog and look forward to reading more.

Green Bean said...

I'm like Tracy. I had none to save but I do love this idea. I'll have to see if I can save a few heads this year.