Last Updated on September 26, 2021 by Nancie
According to the National Audubon Society, birdseed may be more expensive this winter. The drought that has hit the US West and Great Plains this year is reportedly heavily impacting seed crops and birdseed prices are expected to rise. If they do, what can we bird watchers do? Here are a few strategies to cope with rising birdseed prices.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Limit Who Eats the Expensive Seed
Some bird watchers welcome all birds and other critters to their backyard feast. Others try to be more selective on who eats the seed. With more expensive birdseed, you might think twice about those squirrels dangling on your bird feeders. If you resolve to keep squirrels out of your feeders, you need to choose feeder type and location carefully. Consider correctly positioned squirrel-proof feeders. A quality baffle over a hanging feeder or on a pole can save you hundreds of pounds of birdseed. See my post on how to “Stop Squirrel Problems on Bird Feeders.”
Squirrels aren’t the only unruly eaters. While a variety of birds at your feeders is fun, many bird watchers aren’t crazy about winter and early spring flocks of “black birds”. (These often include Common Grackles, Brown-Headed Cow Birds, Red-Winged Blackbirds and European Starlings that travel in mass at this time.) Choosing the right feeder can be the solution to keeping these bird flocks from eating all that expensive birdseed. Check my posts on “Strategies to Keep Starlings off Feeders” and “Fewer Mixed Blackbird Flocks at My Feeders.”
Think About How Many Birds You Want to Feed
Putting out seed attracts birds, which is great. And as your feeders become more popular, over time more and more birds come to the party. The natural inclination (which I’ve done myself) is to keep purchasing more and more feeders to accommodate them all. But when birdseed is expensive, if your budget doesn’t stretch to more feeders or you can no longer afford to fill all your existing feeders, that’s ok. Just put out what you can. Remember that the food we offer in our feeders supplements their diet. It does not provide for their every calorie.
Choose Quality Seed
When birdseed is more expensive, you may be tempted to purchase the cheapest seed you can find, but that can be a false economy. Many inexpensive seed mixes are filled with cheap filler seed that most birds won’t eat. That unwanted seed is likely to wind up on the ground under your feeders. You are better off buying seed that will actually get eaten. See my post on “Seed Choice: What Do Backyard Birds Eat?”
The price of sunflower, safflower and millet seeds are all expected to go up. These seeds are grown in the areas hit by drought this year. (Most nyjer seed we see here seems to be grown outside the US, but it is already a more expensive seed.) Keep an eye on the price of alternative bird foods like peanuts or dried mealworms that may be sourced from other locations. (Of course it’s always possible they could go up too!) Check out my posts on “Feeding Peanuts to Backyard Birds” and “Erva’s Mealworm Feeder and Dried Mealworms”.
Commercial suet often includes added seed, so it seems possible it might get more expensive as well. Alternatively, you might look for regular suet with peanuts instead (assuming that peanut prices won’t rise.) And once the temperature stays below 70 degrees, you can offer “Pure Suet” to your woodpeckers.
Watch For Sales
If you have a local bird store, get on their mailing list so you’ll know when there is a good sale. Stock up on seed when the price is a little lower. But make sure you have a way to store the seed to keep other critters from getting into it. Check out my post on “Storing Birdseed Three Easy Ways.”
Keep Your Seed Clean and Dry
Seed that gets wet in a feeder can mold and be harmful to birds. If you can protect feeders from the weather, you will have to discard less of that expensive seed. Think about how you put out seed for birds. Is there a way to protect it from rain and snow a bit better this winter? See my article looking at on the “Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle” which also explores weather domes vs baffles. And if you have a closed tube feeder without a sloped bottom, you might also try putting “Feeder Fresh” in the bottom. This product can help avoid seed in the bottom molding in this subset of feeders.
Let Some of the Leaves, Seeds and Sticks Stay in Your Yard
While traditional fall yard care might involve raking up every last leaf and cutting down every dead stalk to go to the local landfill, wait! Lots of native bugs hang out in leaf litter during the winter and birds eat those bugs. By leaving your yard a little less tidy, you’ll be feeding the birds and it won’t cost you a thing! See Audubon’s article on “To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work.”
Birdseed May Be More Expensive This Winter
If prices for birdseed do rise, we will deal with it, just as we have dealt will all the other craziness of the past couple years. As always, pause and think the problem through to find the best way to feed birds at your feeders this winter.
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