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Seedheads for the Birds

Posted by newyorkrita z7 NY (My Page) on
Mon, Sep 16, 02 at 17:57

I am experimenting by sprouting the various seeds in the birdseed mix other than sunflower to see if I can get the birds to eat the seeds in the natural state. So far I have grasslike sprouts with nice brown seedheads and something that has leaves like corn but the seedleads again are more grasslike and certainly not corn. I also tried Wheat which is now nice and brown. None of the birds around the garden are paying any attention to my intended natural bird buffet. It seems to me that the birds must eat seeds in the natural growing state like this. Do they not recognize something new? Need to wait until the snow flies?

I let the Buckwheat in my veggie garden go to seed and do see birds flying in there all the time but don't know if they are eating the Buckwheat.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Alot of birds are ground feeders, and will hunt up the grain when it falls over or falls out of the head. Unfortunately for you, your climate is such that the seeds will sprout or rot before winter sets in. Many grains come from areas where the winter was short and the fall is dry. Wheat seed commonly availably is generally a hybrid that the first farmers developed from emmer and einkorn wheat, so it has few of the characteristics of most grass seed that birds eat. For instance, the head is shatter resistant, so it is likely to fall in one chunk, instead of scattering the seeds around individually. (How would you eat corn if you couldn't eat the grains off the cob? Shoving the whole cob in your mouth is not an easy thing to do.) Birds in the garden could be eating weed seeds. I always leave some Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium) standing along with Foxtail and other weeds for small birds. They seem to scratch around in there all winter, lord knows what they're finding, but there's always birds in there. They come to the feeder too, but some of the same species that flock to the feeder carry on in the weeds.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Instead of birdseed mix, which contains nonnative plants, try growing native perennials and grasses and letting those seeds remain over the winter. The birds will flock to them. For example, right now birds are eating seeds of rudbeckia and echinacia, plus perennial sunflowers; when the grasses and aster seeds ripen, they will eat those. I leave the stalks standing all winter. The asters, which are in full bloom right now, are attracting clouds of butterflies, particularly two species of skippers.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I leave my perrenials standing all winter also. This morning when I looked out my back door at my kitchen garden I found Goldfinches, Chicadees and native sparrows eating the seedheads of my Purple Coneflowers, Black eyed Susans and Joe Pie Weeds.

Native grasses are on my list for next year. Basicly this was just an experiment to see if anything interesting sprouted and if the birds liked it. I kinda got the idea from the concept of growing a game mix stand but I used what I had (birdseed). Oh well, not everything tried in the garden turns out well or as expected. No big deal, I will just turn the stuff into the soil as a green manure.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

For next spring I ordered more Buckwheat but I also ordered grain Amaranth, grain sorghum, brown top millet and proso millet. Can't wait to try them out.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I planted some safflower seed last year and had just a few flowers. The seeds are sort of inside a pod, not like a sunflower at all. I noticed a few days ago that the birds haven't found them yet. Too bad - Safflower seed is pricey but the birds love it. I won't try to grow them again. They're not pretty at all and a little prickly like a thistle. I'm planting coneflowers this year and sunflowers too of course.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I had thought of Safflower too but wasn't sure if I should try it. After your advice, Christie, I think I will skip it.

I tried things last year that were a new idea to me, many of which did not work. For instance I did plant red wheat and oats but they were a bust. This year I ordered a native spring wheat with none of those spikey hairs. That might work better. I did not even think about the fact that the seed does not scatter, learn something new all the time.

I did find out that lots of birds hung out in the patch of buckwheat and sunflowers. I planted the buckwheat to attract bees and did not even know it might attract birds so that was an added bonus.

I have been planning my native grass garden but I see from pricing the grasses that I am going to have to get seeds and try to grow some of my own. The plants are pricey if you want a bunch of them. The seeds of the annuals I am going to grow to get a head start for the birds were really cheap!


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

For whatever reason, the birds love my liatris. I have coneflowers, grasses, etc, and even let a few thistles go to seed, but notice the most birds on the liatris (Gayfeather).


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

They eat seeds of asters, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, liatris, and native grasses (and I'm probably forgetting about some of my prairie plants) all winter long. The seedheads are still almost half full right now. There are a lot of birds around all the time--cardinals, woodpeckers, song sparrows, nuthatches, juncos, chickadees, bluejays, etc., and I do not have any feeders. They arrive in mixed flocks and forage between the pocket woodland and the prairie garden all day long. This winter in particular I'm seeing mixed flocks of juncos and song sparrows all the time.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Elaine- Which of the native grases are you growing that the birds particularly like???


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Jung's has "broom corn" that looks like it has lots of seeds on it and would maybe be ornamental and also that purple millet. I'd like to know if anyone has tried either of those and make sure they're not on a worst invasives list.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Little bluestem. Right after the first snow, the juncos started flocking to it to eat the seeds. They're almost always around, usually in mixed flocks with song sparrows. And there are also aster and other seeds right in the same place.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

This is the first year that my butterfly bushes went crazy, and grew about 6' tall and really spread out. The birds have really spent alot of time on them, eating the seeds. The bad news is.......it was mostly the house sparrows.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I didn't realize that the birds eat the seeds on butterfly bushes. Recently I have noticed a number of birds in my butterfly bush but it didn't occur to me that they might be eating the seeds. I will have to see what kind of birds they are.

Richard


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I didn't realize that the birds eat the seeds on butterfly bushes. Recently I have noticed a number of birds in my butterfly bush but it didn't occur to me that they might be eating the seeds. I will have to see what kind of birds they are.

Richard


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Hi Richard,
I'm just assuming they're eating the seeds. Maybe they just like the thick cover, but it appears (from a distance) that that's what they're doing. I've heard butterfly bushes grow invasively in some areas........If the birds are eating the seeds, I might have a few zillion more next year! Oh well.....there are worse invasives to have!


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I noticed that Johnny's Selected Seeds has a 'Birdseed Collection' on p. 121 of their new Spring catalog. Looks interesting, with several varieties not available individually. Lois

Here is a link that might be useful: Johnny's Selected Seeds


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I wouldn't plant any seed mix without knowing exactly what species are in it.

Yes, butterfly bushes are invasive in many parts of the country. No invasive is a good invasive. They crowd out native plants--that's the definition of an invasive.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I have five nice sized Butterfly bushes and have never noticed any seeds. I rarely headhead them as I never seem to have time but it doesn't stop them from blooming. This shrub attracts Butterflys, Hummingbirds, Hummingbird Moths, all sorts of night flying moths, bees and all sorts of local pollinating insects.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I've had pine siskins and juncos eating the seedheads from my coneflowers all winter. They've also eaten seeds from sunflowers and penstemons. I haven't noticed them eating seeds from rudbeckia.

Newyorkrita, the butterfly bushes I have have extremely small seeds and I doubt birds would show much interest in them. They are nice nectar plants for butterflies and hummingbird moths. My hummers haven't shown much interest in them, though the hummers have lots of choices in my yard.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Christie, you asked (way back when) about broom corn -
I got a pack last year from Gurney's, and it's actually pretty popular with the birds.

Once the seeds matured, but before they started to fall, I harvested the seed-brooms (more like seed-mops, once the seeds get heavy!) with about a foot of stalk attached, tied them in bundles & hung them in my porch to finish drying. Once serious winter set in (and it *was* serious this year, right, Rita??)I'd hang bundles off the fence out by the feeders. They got stripped pretty quick, and when there were 4-foot drifts between the house & the feeders, I didn't feel too bad about not filling them every day, with the broom corn there as backup.

Only one not-so-good thing about it - the catalog says they get 4-5 feet tall. They lie. They get as tall as "real" corn, (mine were a good 9 feet), so be prepared to have a cornfield in your back yard. But unless you have a puny little 60 X 100 Suburbiaville lot like me, it's not likely to be a problem!!

Karin H
Thanks all, for an excellent and informative thread, btw!


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Thanks Karin. I didn't order any this year but will keep it in mind. Maybe next year.
FOUR FOOT DRIFTS!!!!!
Bet you're glad winter's over.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

This year I planted a grain sorghum called Sorghum bicolor Apache Red "Sugarcane". I got it from Native Seed Search in Tucon, AZ. This would be in the same family as broom corn but I think it would work better for attracting birds. We will see. Its touted as bird attracting on their website. The seeds have a gorgeous red blush so I am interested to see how the plants turn out.

Nothing annual I planted from seeds myself, such as the sunflowers, sorghum, grain Amaranth and garden huckleberries seem to be growing fast with all the rain and no sunshine. I had to replant some of my bird millets such as browntop milet and dove proso millet as they kept getting flooded out before they could sprout. At least my buckwheat is growing well.

I did buy some little bluesteam plants so hopefully they might set seed and my juncos, like Elaine's, might have something this winter.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

My annual grain millets, both Browntop and Dove Proso have bloomed. They look quite attractive with the tufts of seedheads atop the course grass foliage. So far, no birds seem interested but I think they are not ripe enough.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

This year I have discovered that Cardinals absolutely love the seeds of Buckwheat. I can see them eating seeds from the Buckwheat patch many times all day long.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Besides the purple coneflower, goldfinches have been visiting my agastache (honey bee blue) and oenothera biennis every day...


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Mourning doves wait for the seed pods of the cleome to open and drop their seeds which explains the tons of cleome I have.
Goldfinch passed by a week ago to clean up the purple cone flower seeds, a beautiful sight little yellow puffs on the purple flowers.
Stella


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Nothing visits my purple coneflower but I have had lots of house finches dining on my strawberry fields gomphrena. They're so cute. They'll eat and then take a dip in the bird bath and then go back to their feast!


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I have seen the Goldfinches on all sorts of seeds in my garden including Joe Pye Weed, all sorts of Salvias and Crape Myrtle. I also have the Juncos and White Throats now thats its colder weather and I see them interested in finding insects amoung any leaf litter scattered around. But I have one area of a flower bed I had neglected and crabgrass grew and went to seed. Aparently crab gras seed is popular with Juncos and White Throats because I see them eating seeds off the grass now that its dried up.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

The seedheads on my Switchgrass are all gone and I am betting birds ate them over the winter even though I never saw them doing so. Seedheads on the Little Bluestem and Prairie Dropseed are all gone too.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

I just planted some annual Browntop Millet that the birds sem to like.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Goldfinches have been eating the seeds from my Cosmos and Grain Amaranth, which is also popular with the House Sparows.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Goldfinches eating the seeds off my Black Eyed Susans today.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Wow, this has been a great thread to stumble upon! Now I know why all of a sudden all of these birds have been hanging around the Buddleia (butterfly bush)! I was wondering what was so interesting to them :)


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Do the seeds mentioned in the above discussions attract squirrels too? They seem to be the primary consumers of the bird seeds I put out during winter. The poor juncos, sparrows, and cardinals have to wait until the squirrels are done.


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RE: Seedheads for the Birds

Man, I hope all my native grasses are not dead. So far neither the little bluestem nor the Switchgrass has sent up green shoots.


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