Birds - Any ideas for birdfeed falling into garden?

brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)January 26, 2010

This may not be the right forum, so point me in the right direction if not, butÂ

DON'T WANT TO MOVE FEEDERS, 'cuz I love watching them exactly where they are. That being the case, looking for something to put under feeders in garden so seed can still be accessed by my birds. Feeders are established and many birds feed off the ground.

Winter is fine. ItÂs dead grass and dirt, mainly. But in past summers, it was a pain. All the seeds sprouted intermingled in the grass AND my garden (flowers). I had cornstalks !!!

So last year I put a dedicated mound of mulch under the feeders and put plastic under it to prevent rooting of the seeds. But I felt I had deprived them of their familiar feeding spot. And all those dropped seeds seemed to go to waste.

Typically, I also throw out seed for them in front of the same area onto the sidewalk but didnÂt know it they really liked pecking on the cement. Mainly itÂs the doves IÂm concerned with since they seem to rather like pecking the dirt.

So, after much ado - MY QUESTION IS  anyone have ideas of what to put down in the Âsemi-circle around my feeders between the garden & the sidewalk where the seed falls down? Try to picture a garden in running left to right in front of a porch and it butts up against the sidewalk with a feeder close to the sidewalk, needing a semi-circle area under it for dropping seeds.

IÂd planned to plant all the way to the sidewalk later this spring to eliminate grass, but before I have enough planting material, thought IÂd put down landscape fabric and mulch a foot between garden and sidewalk. But along that straight line, I have that Âsemi-circle that curves inward to consider for the overflow of seeds available to the birds which juts into the garden.

Any materials you can suggest that wonÂt encourage sprouting but would allow them to get to the seeds? IÂd wondered about gravel? Or flat flagstone? But the "poop" would collect on that. Any groundcover I could plant that would give the birds access to seeds yet not allow sprouting? IÂm open for any suggestions !!

Tks, bonnie aka brit5467

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Don't know if it would work but window screen tacked to a frame that is the size of the space could be put down under the feeders. The smaller pieces would fall through but it should hold the whole seeds. Every so often you should probably tilt it into your compost or use a leaf vacum to remove the hulls and any uneaten seeds. You would have to devise something to peg/hold the screen to the ground or the seeds will go flying with your first wind.

Depending on where it is you could plan a wild flower garden there and just allow seeds to grow removing the ones with thorns and or plants that are too big. By planting wild flowers you provide some food for the birds and any seed growth could be partially hidden.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 7:40PM
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Had that problem as well. Went to a bird feeding store, I don't recall the name, something like the "wild bird store" or "birdwatcher store".
They had many different feeders that helped prevent seeds from hitting the ground, and also 'sterile' seeds that won't sprout or grow when they hit the ground. The birds didn't seem to care that it wouldn't grow, they ate it just fine.
I would suggest that if you have too much growth, try a combo of the two, it worked well for me!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 8:48PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Mailfeur, the window screen sounds like a GREAT idea !! And if I had landscape material below it, that would stop the existing grass from growing up thru it (if it even can) and I could just butt my garden mulch up against the frame.

But I REALLY like the wildflower idea, especially since IÂm trying my hand at winter sowing this year and (hopefully) many will be wildflowers. Doing that, along with trying those 'sterile' seeds that kayef mentioned would probably work out fantastic !!

I imagine the ground birds would still be able to go in the flowers and find seed to eat, right? Because although I do throw some out on the sidewalk for them, I'd rather they clean up the dropped seeds as to not encourage the squirrels. This is the first year I've started to have a problem with them. Only three so far, but when there's too much thrown on the ground, it attracts them.

As far as trying the feeders that donÂt let the seed hit the ground, you donÂt know my birdsÂLOL. They love to pick thru the seeds and literally toss away what they donÂt away. They go flying everywhere !!

But I appreciate the suggestion !! IÂll try that kind if I put one up in my side yard again. Last year, the seeds right below the feeder sprouted into nice grass at first so I didnÂt care. But I ultimately ended up with a big heaved up mass of I donÂt know what. It smelled sour and knew it wasnÂt healthy for the birds who ate off the ground.

Thanks again for both your ideas. I will definitely be using them !!

bonnie aka brit 5467

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 6:43PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I found using a better bird food (back when I fed the birds bought seed), made it less of a problem under the feeders. I never bought anything that had cracked corn in it as it brought in EUST and HOSP.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 7:08PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

What's EUST & HOSP ??? I know I mentioned having "cornstalks" but I did quit buying it with cracked corn towards end of summer.

I've been buying "Wild Bird Seed" from Ace Hardware and it says "mixed grains & oil sunflower (which to me are the sunflower seeds) along with some vitamin supplements. Aside from the sunflower seeds it's all just various tiny seeds (it may have more info in tiny print but it was too cold out there to check further).

But MOST recently, I found some at Big Lots that had nuts and berries in it and they LOVE that (but so do the squirrels - the nuts, you know). It smells good enough to eat when you open the bag (the berries) and has attracted new birds. A downy and a red-headed woodpecker, titmouse, and more cardinals than usual (our State bird) and something else I'm forgetting.

But tell me about the EUST & HOSP, please...tks!

bonnie aka brit5467

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 7:53PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

EUST=European Starling
HOSP=House Sparrow

Keep baffles on your feeding station poles and you don't have to worry about squirrels getting into the bird feeders. That's the only thing I do feed. I have a ton of squirrels here. When we moved in, the previous people had corn out, I didn't want corn stalks, so we switched to peanuts. I have one I can hand feed. Yes, yes, I know he's a wild animal âº

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 11:46AM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Thanks !! I have too many of both !! Don't really mind the sparrows, since that's mostly all I've really ever had over the past few years. Various types. But the starlings -- well, I hate to say I hate a bird, but they are such pigs. I find if I keep enough seed on the ground, they leave the feeders alone. I would like to attract a better variety, tho, but don't know how?

I do get some black-capped chickadees who who "hit it & run" then come right back, over and over again. I guess stashing their seeds. Then maybe a bluejay & catbird and the others I mentioned in an above post, but not many of them. Nothing to write home about, really.

The fruit and berry 'bell' I've been buying seems to be what's attracting the downy woodpecker. I LOVE to watch him !! He eats for a LONG time, all by himself.

I saw a new bird today that I'm going to also post about. But have no pic, so it's probably futile to try and figure him out.

Squirrels - I guess I could try the baffle but until they get out of control (only have 2, something a 3rd one) I think I'll wait. I do enjoy watching them. And I'm like you - I don't mind feeding them. If they have food on the ground, they are pretty well-behaved.

And I think it's cool you hand-feed him. Just this past week I had to stay in bed a lot so just ouside my window, I have a little dish on my porch railing for my one-legged sparrow to eat out of, since he likes to lay down in it to eat. He seems to struggle on the feeder.

Anyway, the squirrel found the dish and kept knocking it off and breaking it. So I decided to put some peanut butter in a small plastic cap that comes off Pepto-Bismul and cut out the side of it for easier access and it was a blast to watch him eat.

So I went one step further and strapped one of those seed bells onto the railing. BAD IDEA !! THAT is what attracted the 3rd squirrel. I had them all on the porch, the other two down on the ground and up on my table eating the seeds that were dropping from the rail. So down it all came and haven't seen then near my porch since. Learned MY lesson : )

bonnie aka brit5467

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 12:10PM
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What a lot of people miss when seeing sparrows is that most flocks are made up of a mix of various sparrows not just house ones. Hubby and I call them "the crew". Really fun when the young ones are just off the nest. They will sit on the ground and flutter their wings until the parents feed them. One that has joined this year has multi shaded stripes on head, wings and area under the wings. I keep wanting to get a camera that will automatically download so I could identify the more interesting ones.

The screen I suggested in my first post even though I did not mention it was to be removed when things started growing or if you do not feed in the summer.

FYI in most bird foods are seeds of a plant whose leaves look like watermelon plants except a lighter green. As they grow they develop nasty thorns on the underside of the leaves and along the stem. If you see any pull immediately before the thorns become firm. If you wait you will need pliers to pull.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 1:01AM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Maiflure - I TOTALLLY agree !! Sparrows are about the only birds who used to come during my introduction to feedings so I got used to loving them. They're ARE many different types that I've yet to distinguish between them all. I JUST noticed the little striped headed ones today since they were on my porch, due to the snow, and they DO look really different than the others.

I did get to watch all of them last year when "we" (me, now) fed them in the side yard and would watch them over the headboard of the bed. The babies would sit up on the neighbor's roof and wait for 'momma' to come feed them. And even sometimes wait for her right on the feeder.

It is very entertaining and I just love them all. I've yet to really distinguish between all the different types, since there are BOTH males and females and my bird book only shows mainly males. But that doesn't matter. They are so fun to watch.

And yes, you mentioned needing to clear the screen periodically, and since I DO feed them all year long, I guess I'll do it often, but thanks !!

I never get those "sticker" plants (that I know of)??? Wondering if we get different seed in different zones??

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 3:23AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I use hulled sunflower and/or a patio mix that includes peanuts and other yummy stuff. Nothing seems to sprout. When I used safflower, I had it everywhere and I'm still trying to get rid of it! I had heard squirrels don't like it, but my squirrels seem to be very adaptable...they'll eat anything-lol.

I hate the starlings, too. Just lately, they have descended en masse around our house. They are so greedy and they drive all the songbirds away. We used to have lots of chickadees which I love, but only the rare one shows up this year. Lots of juncos, finches, sparrows, doves, and cardinals, though. A lot of the Blue Jays disappeared thanks to West Nile Virus, but a few seem to be coming back. They are fun to watch in the bird baths in the warmer weather. Most seem to disappear for a bit in the spring and fall when the hawks are migrating and take up temporary residence.

I don't put anything under my feeders. The birds do a great job of cleaning up dropped seed and the cardinals and doves are ground feeders anyway.

Sorry for going off topic!

I also feed year round.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 12:53PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

I'm not familiar with the "patio mix" but will have to look for it. I definitely need to try different kinds. . Although I'd said (earlier post) I didn't use one that had cracked corn, I realized that it DOES have it in it.

And YES - en masse !!! It's been terrible. And then after that big snow storm we had, I had a feeding frenzy. Their squawking & fighting over the suet and seed & berry bell was so loud that it woke me. I finally had to go take both down, which deprived my downy woodpecker. But it calmed things down a bit.

I had more birds than I knew what to do with !! When I woke and looked out my BR window, there were doves and cardinals actually up on my porch sitting around to get out of the weather !! So I put out a couple planter saucers full of seed and another one for water and I was glued to the window for most of the day (other than having to bundle up and refill the feeders a few time. So much so that I'm almost out of food now !!)

But that drew more cardinals and doves, then black-eyed juncos and some white-throated sparrows showed up. At some point, different ones even came up onto the arm of the couch which is just inches away from the window. It was soooo cool. Thankfully, the starlings pretty much stayed off the porch.

It's funny, tho. Even tho this morning I saw a couple blue-jays and cardinals at the saucers, after I went out and refilled everything, no one seems interested. Seems like the porch 'show' was only due to the storm.

What part of VA are you from?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 2:36PM
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Interesting about the kinds of seed everyone feeds.
I feed primarily black oil sunflower 9expensive at Lowe's, but cheap at Tractor Supply - ($15 for 50 lbs). Black oil seems to be the preferred feed for cardinals, chickadees carolina wren, downy woodpecker, mourning dove, flickers, tufted titmouse,bluebirds, and an occasional jay. Sparrows feed on it, but prefer the hulled seed, as do the chickadees and wrens. An added bonus - the sunflower hull of the black oil seed seems to help the compost, and it mulches nicely in the flower beds!
Used to get that weedy flower in GA, when I didn't use the sterile seed. You are also probably getting thistle seed in there.
I feed probably 80 pounds of thistle in the winter, for the finches, primarily gold and red, with some buntings showing up in spring. If you feed thistle be very careful to get the sterile seed. its fertile and tends to fall below the feeder (doves and mice will eat it). I actually like the look of thistle, and the fact that it attracts bees, so my thistle feeders at the wood line all are not sterile. Come spring, I will get hundreds of thistle plants, that by summer will be beautiful purple flowers for the bees, and come late summer, natural seed for birds passing through. If you can tolerate the spiny leaves, and thistle 'fluff'(which bluebirds use all winter here for nesting), let it grow, it really is a pretty plant
If you want to get rid of that 'smell' below the feeder, avoid seed with corn, when I fed a mix with corn, the corn would sometimes sit and ferment, or, as you discovered, grow.
Corn here, whole or cracked, is an attractant of crows. I do throw cracked corn in the woodline to keep them away from the sunflower. Using cracked corn away from my garden, also keeps rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and racoons at bay! Crack corn doesnt seem to grow into stalks either.
It does, however seem to cause my grass to die, so I keep it in areas that I don't have plantings.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 4:26PM
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Don't know if it will work for anyone other than myself but when I see/hear large flocks of birds that I do not want I go outside and clap my hands loudly. Depending on the type of bird they will either all or part take off. Right now I only have a small 5 member flock of starlings that come and eat every day.

I think the birds believe someone is shooting at them.

If you look at the various bags of bird feed for company location you will find that there are really only a few birdseed companies. Cleanest US town I ever drove through was Schaffer ND. Most of the income must come from birdseed.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 1:01AM
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terryr(z5a IL)

The HOSP at my house are all of the English variety. Not a one is anything different. I wish I did have something different.

Nyjer seed (thistle), is heat treated so it's sterile when it's processed. You don't have to worry about thistles growing, because the plant isn't a thistle. Nyjer is from the plant Guizotia abyssinicia. It hails from Asia and Africa. It has little yellow, daisy like flowers. Doing a simple search on nyjer, you can learn about it. Here's a link to one site

Here is a link that might be useful: Nyjer seed

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 5:32PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Maifleur, I do more or less the same thing but only from in the house since my window is no more than 10' away from the feeders. I take my hairspray bottle and tap it hard it on the glass. They all fly away (except for the doves, which really tickles me the way they just look around as if to say, "What are you guys freaking out about?")

But in moments, they're all right back again. At first, it DID work but I think they've gotten used to it. I'll try actually going outside the next time. But unless it's the clapping and not just my presence (which also scares them off) they still come right back.

And terryr - Are you saying you don't get anything but HOSP or that your HSOP all look the same? Either way, that's a shame because I DO get a variety of HOSP as well as other birds. Maybe you need a variety of seed to attract others? I never got anything beside the occassional bluejay and cardinal until I bought seed with nuts & berries in it (and possibly other type seeds) AND bought a nut & seed 'bell' that Walmart sells for only $1.97. The bell is what attracted the downy woodpecker and the new seed attracted the titmouse and more cardinals and more black-capped chickadees (I only had a couple before).

Unfortunately, the bell ALSO attracted a couple squirrels who, until I put it up, had stayed down on the ground. And my suet feeder has the starlings fighting over it so the downy can't get to it. So it becomes a game of "musical feeders" where I go take down the suet & bell until everyone has left, them put it back out again so different ones can come (and then have to go take it back down, etc., etc. :)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 7:10PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I'm sorry, I wasn't too clear on that was I? When I had food out, all I had were HOSP. Without food, I have hardly any. The HOSP would scare away any and all birds anywhere in the yard, I had so many. I bought my birdseed from Wild Birds Unlimited. My birds only the got the best of the best! The HOSP and the EUST ate anything I had out. I saw a yellow bellied sapsucker on the tree next door. Ha! I run out and buy peanuts, which I know they love and hang the feeder with peanuts in it. These were the shelled kind. Not only did the EUST eat it, but so did the HOSP!! I have so many different kinds of feeders and I have suet feeders too. But anything in the feeders brings me nothing but HOSP and EUST. So, we put out unshelled peanuts for the squirrels and the Bluejays (if they're quick enough). Once in a great while, a Cardinal makes off with one. Unshelled peanuts are the only thing I've seen that the HOSP or the EUST won't touch. Everything else, they eat.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 10:33PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

Awwww, that IS a shame. And I thought I was deprived since I didn't get all the other birds people talk of seeing. Didn't know the HOSP would eat the nuts !! WOW !! Hadn't noticed them taking them or eating them, but then I don't always see what they're doing...hee hee.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 10:00PM
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A WORD OF WARNING: I have a bird feeding station consisting of 6 feeders in the center of a flower bed. Last year I planted wild flowers under my bird feeders because it was the only area in the bed that didn't have flowers and looked ugly. The wild flowers bloomed and looked beautiful! But by the end of summer, I was having a horrible time breathing. I went to the doctor and discovered that the wild flowers along with the sunflower shells were growing mold because that area only got sun for 4-5 hours a day. I also watered the flowers every day, so there was a lot of moisture. My lungs were full of mold! I had to wear a mask to remove all the flowers and shells and burn them. It took my lungs several weeks to recover. Now I just leave dirt under the feeder so it is easy to remove the shells and keep the area mold free.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 2:18PM
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I use sunflower chips , sometimes called sunflower hearts. These have no shell. There is no mess. Almost all birds love them from woodpeckers, wrens, tufted titmouse, chickadee, towhee, cardinals, song sparrows and bluebirds. I buy it at Tractor Supply.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 8:05PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Brit, just a note on the behavior of those cute little chickadees...they take their seed one at a time, then fly to a nearby branch because they need to 'hold' the seed in order to open it. Most other birds can seeds open with their beaks and tongue. If you watch them closely, you'll see them do it, each and every time. They will use one claw to hold a seed against the branch while cracking it open with their beaks.

catlenter reminds us all of an essential housekeeping task. It is important that we keep the seed and shells removed from under the feeders, at least two or three times a season, if not more. This is important for the birds' health, too.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 4:34PM
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brit5467(7b/8a Coastal VA)

I agree about housekeeping. I meant to respond to catlentner before now. I found a similar situation. I didn't have a reaction to the mold, thankfully, but could see what you are talking about.

This year, I decided to stop fighting a loosing battle and pulled the planter pole up that the feeders hung on. Altho I'll miss watching from my bedroom window early AM and LR later on -- instead I have just double-stick tapped a tray on my porch railing that I can see from both vantage points.

Takes less food, which I simply cannot afford anymore AND they are much closer. I seem to get a better variety, albeit not as often. Bluejays, cardinals, black capped chickadees.

Which brings me to rhizo's post. My mom recently told me that was their behavior. I just love watching them. I even know the tree they go to now, and can see them out side window, cracking open the shells.

Best of luck to all of you !!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:13PM
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