No Waste Bird Foods
Melissa Mayntz is a bird expert, certified Master Naturalist, writer, and author with over three decades of experience. She’s published in several national magazines, including National Wildlife Magazine, Bird Watcher’s Digest, and WildBird Magazine. Melissa has studied hundreds of bird species around the world, traveling to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the central Pacific, the Middle East, and more on birding expeditions.
theilr / Flick / CC by-SA 2.0
Feeding birds can be an enjoyable hobby, but it can also be a messy one as layers of hulls and discarded seeds accumulate under feeders, on decks, and across patios. By choosing no waste bird foods, however, that mess can be avoided and the birds will enjoy every morsel of available food.
What Makes Bird Feeding Messy
Birds are naturally messy eaters, and feeding birds for a long time can lead to dirty feeders and messy ground beneath those feeders. Unappetizing seeds will be kicked out and discarded, and birds drop hulls as they feed. Discarded seed can mold and rot, or it may sprout beneath the bird feeder, leading to undesirable weeds or damaging turf. A messy feeding area can attract pests and may result in fines or other sanctions in HOA communities. Birders who choose no waste bird foods will avoid many of these problems while giving their birds the best, most nutritious foods.
Types of No Waste Bird Foods
No-waste bird food is a type of food that birds completely consume, with no leftover hulls or uneaten pieces. There are natural no waste foods, such as floral nectar, insects, small berries, small nuts, and crabapples that birds can swallow whole. Offering these natural foods is the ideal way to keep feeding areas clean and to economize a bird feeding budget.
For supplemental bird feeders, there is a wide variety of no waste, no mess options, including:
hearts or chips (check ingredients to be sure there are no hulls in the blend)
- Hulled millet
- Shelled peanuts or orange marmalade (use only sparingly as rare “treats”)
These foods can be purchased individually or in specialized no waste or no mess seed blends, often with different compositions designed to attract different types of birds. While these no waste blends are more expensive than traditional birdseed, they can be a more economical option overall because birders are not paying for the weight of hulls or filler seeds birds will not eat.
Benefits of No Waste Foods
The most obvious benefit of no waste bird foods is that the birds are able to eat the entire quantity of food. This can mean feeders need less frequent refilling, and cleaning the feeders is easier because there is no need to remove unwanted debris. Because no waste birdseed has no hulls, the seeds are also unable to sprout and there will be no unintentional weeds or damage under the feeders. With less seed spilled to the ground, fewer feeder pests such as mice, rats, raccoons, squirrels, deer, and other animals will be attracted to the area.
Tips for Feeding No Waste Foods
Because no waste birdseed and other foods are typically more expensive than basic seed blends, it is important to feed them as economically as possible and to care for the seed so it is not wasted in other ways.
so it will stay fresh and dry as long as possible, free from rodent or insect infestations. Storing birdseed in a freezer or refrigerator can ensure it stays fresh and is not contaminated by pests.
- Use no waste birdseed on decks, balconies, patios, or other areas where mess is undesirable, but use less expensive seed elsewhere to lower the bird feeding budget and offer more feeding options for more birds.
- Use platforms under feeders so any unintentional waste is minimized and larger birds can feed from the platform to clean up spillage. This will also create extra feeding space to accommodate flocks. with suitable placement and covers, since hulled seeds will spoil more quickly when wet. On rainy days, consider leaving feeders empty to avoid mildewed or damp seed.
- Buy different no waste seeds and foods in bulk and create customized seed mixes rather than paying for expensive manufactured blends. This ensures the seeds offered are perfect for exactly the backyard birds that visit.
No mess bird seed and other no waste bird foods are ideal choices for feeding birds and eliminating much of the mess that comes with bird feeding. By choosing these high-quality, desirable foods, birders can attract a wide range of birds to their feeders without needing to clean up after them.
What Kind of Birdseed Won’t Make Grass Grow?
Watching the antics of birds hopping on feeders and battling over seed is one of the many reasons to feed wild birds. Unfortunately, if you choose the wrong seed or don’t follow good feeding habits, you can end up with a mess of weeds around your feeders. Birds know what they like and will pick through seed mixes to find what they want, leaving the discarded seeds to sprout. Choosing the right seed can keep your garden tidy as you continue to feed your avian visitors.
No Waste Mixes
Most wild bird mixes found in stores that don’t specialize in birdseed contain an abundance of milo and millet. While some birds such as juncos and sparrows love millet, many other species will pick through, trying to get to other items in the mix. Few birds eat milo. As the birds pick through the mix, millet and milo fall to the ground and will eventually sprout into grass-like weeds. To avoid this, visit a store that specializes in wild bird food and choose a mix specially designed for what the birds in your area prefer. The food may cost more, but much less will make its way to the ground to become a weed.
Sunflower chips are hulled sunflower seeds that are chopped into pieces. With the kernel hulled and chopped, the seed won’t sprout. Sunflower chips make an excellent feeder choice because they are one of the top seed choices by a variety of birds including jays, woodpeckers, finches, grosbeaks and chickadees.
Cracked corn consists of dried corn that is split into pieces. Unlike whole kernels of corn, the pieces of cracked corn can no longer sprout. Jays, doves, quail, sparrows and even ducks are attracted to feeders that contain cracked corn.
Although it sounds like a weed, nyjer thistle is not the standard thistle with the purple bloom that gardeners try to keep out of their yards. Nyjer thistle is a small black seed favored by birds such as finches, juncos and pine siskins. Quality nyjer thistle is typically heated so it won’t sprout. If a few plants do sprout, they rarely grow to a mature plant in North America.
Feeding your birds wisely helps reduce seed waste and therefore helps control any likelihood of grass or other weeds growing under your feeders. Using a bird feeder with a seed-catching tray underneath helps catch any discarded seed before it hits the ground. Providing one type of seed in each feeder will keep birds from picking through mixes to find the type of seed they like. In addition to seed, set out fruit, suet and hummingbird feeders to attract a wide array of wild birds.
What birds are in my backyard?
Common backyard birds in the United States: How to attract them, how to watch them, how to identify them.
Monday, July 6, 2020
14 Tips to keep bird seed from sprouting in your lawn
It is inevitable that uneaten seeds will spill out of your bird feeders. The birds themselves may knock some of it out in all of their activity. This uneaten seed will germinate and sprout in your lawn under your feeders. How do you keep sprouting bird seed under control?
You can keep bird seed from sprouting by changing your seeds, changing your feeder, and changing your landscaping using the 14 tips that follow.
First, let’s find out a bit about the seeds in the birdseed! What is it?
Almost all bird seed will sprout. If an unwanted plant is defined as a weed, then bird seed that sprouts is a weed. Some sprouting bird seed may look like grass at first. But bird seeds grow into whatever seed you are feeding: sunflowers, millet, wheat, milo, flax, rapeseed, canary seed. How do you keep bird seed from growing under your feeder?
Change your seeds
Sterilized seeds are heated so that they die. If they fall on the ground they will not germinate and sprout.
Tip 1) Feed Niger seed (thistle)
Niger is not really thistle. This plant seed is also sold under the trademark name Nyjer. It does not germinate and sprout in your lawn–for one very good reason.
In 2001 the USDA required imported Niger seed for birds to be sterilized for 15 minutes at 120˚ C (248˚ F). This sterilizes the seeds.
Since it is sterilized it will not sprout under your bird feeder. This is a favorite food of small finches such as goldfinches, siskins, and house finches.
Tip 2) Sterilize your own seeds
The Niger seed is the only bird seed you are likely to find that has been sterilized. But you can sterilize your own bird seed the very same way. Baking bird seed will stop it from sprouting.
Spread bird seed on a flat baking sheet that has a lip all the way around. Preheat your conventional oven to 250˚ F. Place the baking sheet with bird seed in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Alternatively, I have seed directions to place 5 pounds of bird seed into a paper sack and cook in the microwave on High for 5 minutes. I have also heard some people have accidentally burned their bird seed this way. So try it for lesser amounts of time. Then put it in wet conditions (e.g., damp paper towel in bottom of a glass) for 7 days and see if it sprouts or not.
This sounds like way too much work, though. How about some other ideas?
Feed only seeds that birds like
Just like you, birds have a preference of foods they like. They get up on the feeder and scratch through the mixed seeds, searching for their favorite food.
Many types of mixed bird seed contains filler: cheap seeds that most birds don’t like. Birds toss aside the undesirable seed, often on the ground. This discarded bird seed is likely to sprout.
Tip 3) Feed one type of bird seed in separate feeders
Feeding one type of seed in each feeder will result in birds only visiting the feeder with their favorite foods. They’ll eat this seed, not throw it away. Thus, less bird seed will fall on the ground to sprout.
This tip doesn’t stop accidental spillage. It stops birds from throwing away seeds they don’t like.
Tip 4) Buy fresh bird seed
Cheap bird seed may be cheap for a reason. It may be stale and old. Birds may toss it aside looking for something fresh. Or they may abandon the feeder altogether. Birds will eat more of the fresh seed and not toss away the old. It is best not to store bird seed from one season to the next. Buy new.
Tip 5) Don’t buy bird seed with milo
Most birds don’t like milo. They throw it out of the feeder. It sprouts.
Wheat, rapeseed and canary seed are similar.
Why is milo in bird seed? Chickens like it in chicken scratch. It is very cheap and the bird seed manufacturers already use it. Some bird seed is more than 50% milo. It ends up growing in your lawn.
No mess bird seed
Tip 6) Feed No-mess bird seed
Many mixed seed varieties feature a no-mess or no-waste bird seed. These contain such bird foods as hulled sunflower seeds (seeds without hulls), hulled white proso millet, sunflower chips (hulled and broken), peanut pieces, cracked corn, dried fruits, and nuts (without the shell).
You can purchase a mixed blend containing those seeds and others. You can buy hulled sunflower and other seeds.
Not only will these seeds stop bird seed from sprouting, there will also be no mess from the inedible seed hulls. This is great for patios, lawns, and other areas where you don’t want any mess under the feeder.
Change your feeder
Feeders themselves don’t stop bird seed from sprouting. However, the bird feeder and how it is hung up can change the amount of seed falling to the ground uneaten.
Stabilize bird feeders
Tip 7) Stop your bird feeders from swinging
Some bird seed may spill from your feeder as it sways in the wind. Even birds jumping on and off the feeder may cause it to swing wildly. You may need to shorten the hanger. You may try tying the bottom of the feeder. You may add weight to the bottom of the feeder. It may be that you need to buy a different, perhaps shorter and wider, bird feeder.
Or, perhaps, the bird feeder pole is swaying. In that case, you need a stouter pole or a lighter feeder. A light feeder may swing in the wind easier, though.
Catch those seeds!
Tip 8) Install a seed catcher on the bird feeder pole or hang below your feeder
You can buy seed catcher trays that hang under most styles of bird feeders. Then you can catch both the discarded hulls and any whole seeds that might have fallen from the feeder. It keeps the ground under your bird feeder much cleaner!
Proper feeder for proper seeds
Tip 9) Feed birds black oil sunflower seeds in tube feeders with small feeder ports
Birds such as chickadees, titmouses, and nuthatches eat only one sunflower seed at a time. They fly away to a tree branch to hammer it open to eat the kernel inside. Then they return to the feeder. This feeding behavior causes fewer seeds to be spilled.
House finches sit on the feeder and “chew” the seeds, cracking them open and dropping the hulls out of the feeder. Sometimes the birds accidentally pull out extra seeds that drop to the ground. But there is certainly less fallen seed than in hopper and platform feeders, where birds stand in the tray with the seeds.
Tip 10) Feed mixed bird seed in a low platform feeder
Platform feeders are messy. Birds stand in the feeder with the seeds.
Birds that like to eat from platform feeders, like sparrows and towhees, naturally kick the ground with both feet at once in a kind of hop-kick. They do this on the ground to dig up the soil and turn over leaves. They do this in the feeder, too. They can’t help themselves.
A low platform feeder doesn’t stop the amount of bird seeds kicked out. But it does help keep it confined to a smaller area. Then those ground-feeding birds can locate the spilled seeds easier and eat more of it up from the ground.
Change your landscaping
Make the ground under your feeder easier to clean
The inedible hulls of the sunflower seeds that the birds “spit out” have a natural chemical that keeps most other plant seeds from germinating. Thus, the ground under your feeder is often bare of grass.
Tip 11) Add pavers or flagstones under your feeders
Since the ground under your feeders may be a mess anyway, add pavers. A square of 9 or 16 pavers set close together will be easy to sweep up. Seeds that fall in the cracks and sprout are easy to pull up.
Tip 12) Clean up spilled seed before it sprouts
Regularly rake or sweep up the hulls and spilled seeds before they germinate. You may wish to invest in an outdoor backpack vacuum/blower. You need one anyway, for those fall leaves, right?
Accept the mess!
Tip 13) Move your feeders to the edge of your lawn where it doesn’t matter
Perhaps there’s an area at the edge of your lawn that you can let go to dirt. This can be under some evergreen bushes. It could be at the edge of a “wild” area.
Tip 14) Create a flower garden under your feeder
Remember I said that sunflower hulls prevent some other plants from growing? Some. Not all.
Plant flowers under your bird feeder and let them grow wild! Wild geraniums, day lilies, clematis, lupines, dahlias, mint, cotoneaster, lemon balm, purple coneflowers. Get the idea? A few stray bird seed sprouts won’t even be noticed!