A few more notes on feeding our backyard feathered friends. Nyjer seed (also known as black thistle) is a popular food of American goldfinches and pine siskins. There are feeders available specifically designed for offering this seed, including “socks” made of cloth mesh. Nyjer can also be incorporated into mixed seed blends and offered in other types of feeders.
Cracked corn and scratch feed (a blend of cracked corn with other grains/seeds) can also be useful for feeding songbirds. Jays, woodpeckers, cardinals, doves and pigeons (among others) are fond of these offerings, and both can be used along with other seeds to create a birdfood blend that caters to the tastes of species visiting your own backyard.
For some, a question may arise as to how to offer food for the birds. There is a more bewildering array of feeder types and styles available than there are food items with which to fill them.
The most basic type of feeder is a simple platform or tray, either mounted directly on a post/pole or suspended from one. Unless the feeder is exceptionally small, this type offers access to the most variety of bird species. The downsides are the seed is completely exposed to the elements (birdseed is comprised of the seeds of plants, and when it gets wet some will germinate, microbial growth will occur, etc.) and there is not a seed reservoir.
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Hopper feeders are basically a tray with covered storage attached. Seed is dispensed at the bottom of the storage area into the tray, and as birds eat, gravity pulls more seed into the tray. Some have a roof-type area that helps shelter the seed in the feeding tray from the elements.
Tube feeders are cylinders with feeding ports and perches, and may or may not have a tray. In these feeders, a tray's function is primarily to catch some of the spilled seed before it falls to the ground, but birds will also feed on seed that collects there. These type feeders are available in designs to dispense specific types of seed, such as shelled peanuts, sunflower or Nyjer, or to handle mixed seed blends.
Grape jelly is a popular birdfood item. There are commercially available “jelly feeders,” or you can use your imagination and devise a method to offer jelly to your feathered friends. One method is to use a suitable container (saucer, small bowl, etc.) and place that in a hanging platform suspended from a post/pole/shepherd's hook, etc. I also have success using the reservoir (bottom) section of a saucer-type hummingbird feeder hanging from a shepherd's hook.