(OnFocus) When helping to feed the birds this fall and winter, make sure to pick out the right feed.
“Typically they want something that’s high in protein or high in fat,” said Jim Bauer, location manager at Central Wisconsin County Store.
That includes bird favorites like sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, nut meats (roasted peanuts and almonds), thistle, and safflower. Black sunflower seeds have more food value per pound than regular sunflower seeds, and softer shells.
As winter progresses and there’s more bird activity on the ground, filler options are corn, millet, milo, wheat, and canary seed. Also try suet or unsalted tallow ornaments for winter feeding. When out of town for the weekend, keep the birds fed with large seed blocks and logs.
A lower-cost wild bird feed is chicken scratch feed sold at farm stores like the Central Wisconsin Country Store, and mixtures of local grains which may consist of cracked corn, wheat, oats, millet, buckwheat, milo, and sorghum.
“I judge the quality of the feed by the amount of sunflower that’s in it, whether it’s hearts or whole sunflowers,” said Bauer. “The less expensive, the less sunflowers.”
Provision Partners products locally made at Prince Corporation include Jim’s Mix bird seed blends, which are specially formulated and have a higher sunflower content. Other good choices are the Prince Supreme and Prince America’s Favorite bird seed.
Other additions to bird seed are fine chicken grit tossed along the driveway and fruit bits, dried bugs, and calcium bits.
Birds that are migrating to Wisconsin during the winter including the junco, evening grosbeak, and titmouse. In the cold weather, many birds can share one tree crevice to keep warm. Provide a spot for winter birds by cleaning out birdhouses and inverting the front panel so the entrance hole is at the bottom.
“Provide water if you can. A heated 4 to 6 quart dog bowl works great. They’re easy to clean, and they usually have a built-in thermostat so it’s not pulling power all the time,” said Bauer.
Before feeding birds, check the local ordinance to make sure the bird feeders are not placed too far away from the residence, which could be considered deer feeding, and also consider whether the bird feeders could be a nuisance to neighbors.
To cover your bases, start with a platform feeder. Various feeders come with features to deter squirrels from accessing the seed, to include multiple types of bird seed, or are specifically designed for one type of bird, like finches. The Central Wisconsin Country Store has a wide variety of feeders, including large recycled plastic feeders made by a Wisconsin company.
“A feeder also can be as simple as an old wheelbarrow with an old window screen over it,” Bauer said.
If unsure of what to get, just ask the staff for advice. The Central Wisconsin Country Store is located at 106 S Peach Ave. and is open Monday through Friday from 8-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8-1:30 p.m.