Turn your backyard into a bird feeding sanctuary and discover tranquility in your backyard.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The secret to good birdseed.

There are so many bird seed products out there these days.  How is a person to know if one bird seed is better than another? These days, many of the bird seeds in the market are changing composition to include cheaper, lower quality and less desirable ingredients. Has the consumer noticed? I don't know but I am sure their wallet and the backyard birds have. So what is the secret to good, quality bird seed?
When it comes to good bird seed it’s the ingredients in the bag that make the difference.  Here’s what to look for when choosing bird seed:


What seeds are in the mix? (Look at the seed in the bag and read the mix ingredients which should be listed from highest % ingredient to lowest % ingredient).

Avoid seeds with a high percent of low cost, low value ingredients like:                                                                                                                              

  • Corn or wheat – a little bit of corn or wheat in a mix might appeal to some ground feeding birds but if you see a high percentage of these ingredients in the mix, walk away.  You might as well be feeding squirrels or chickens because all this seed is going to be thrown to the ground under your feeders.
  • Milo seed (sorgum):  This is a seed that often is uneaten in bird seed mixes.

Choose seeds with more bird preferred Ingredients

  • Sunflower (in particular black oil sunflower) is the top pick of seed eating birds.  These can be in shell or hulled chips (kernels)
  • Nuts:  Tree nuts or peanuts are very popular with birds
  • Nyjer seed: This small thin black seed is very popular with finches
  • Millets:  Millet – white, gold and red millet are key birdseed ingredients
  • Canarygrass seed:  There is a reason it is called “canary” grass or “canary” seed. 
  • Flax seed, canola seed or other oil seeds:  Less popular than the seeds above but still providing high energy food value.
  Is the seed clean?
  • Are there a lot of sticks or dust in the bag? Is there any sign of webbing or insects? Good seed looks clean and fresh. Is the bag dusty or taped? Seed that has been sitting along time may not be fresh anymore.  Choose seed bags that look in good condition.

Remember that not all bird seed mixes are the same and that price is not the only differentiating factor. Remember also that if you want to attract specific birds to your yard that it is better to buy a mix that is specifically designed to attract that type of bird. For example Mother Nature's Finch mix for wild finches, Mother Nature's Jay mix for jays and woodpeckers, Mother Nature's Chickadee mix for chickadees and nuthatches and so on.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Improving mental health through experiencing nature and wild birds.

 I have often felt that we need to get scientists to do research on the benefits of backyard bird feeding on mental health. I see the joy that bird feeding brings to people, both young and old. Recently, I was happy to come across an interesting study that does link bird watching with positive mental health and I wanted to share this study with you.

Research done by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland was recently published in BioScience Journal (Vol 67, Issue 2, 1 February 2017) and links the abundance of backyard birds and plants in a neighborhood with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The study looked at 1023 adults in southern England and evaluated how the abundance of vegetation, the abundance of birds and bird diversity affected mental health in the area. The study concluded that people living in neighborhoods with greater levels of vegetation and greater afternoon bird populations had less severe depression, anxiety, and stress. The study could not find a link to bird diversity, meaning that it was more the abundance of birds than the different types of bird that affected mental health. The study also linked greater time outdoors with a more positive state of mind. This would seem to indicate that the ability to experience the outdoors including hearing the birds sing was an important factor.

So what does this study mean for urban planners and people who run public facilities like senior citizen homes?  Could we improve the mental health of our communities while supporting nature, by adding more green spaces to communities, and to take it one step further, by putting in bird feeders to make those spaces more interactive with nature? 

There's a little food for thought for you. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Which foods to use to attract woodpeckers to your backyard.

We are seeing quite a few of pictures of woodpeckers including flickers and downy woodpeckers posted on bird watching sites right now.   I am always excited to see a woodpecker on my feeder. They are just such beautiful birds.  If you want to attract these showy birds to your backyard here is a very brief outline of some of the different types of bird food to consider.

Woodpeckers seem to enjoy peanuts. While the picture above shows in shell peanuts, we also recommend offering skinless or red skinned peanuts in an appropriate peanut feeder. This will attract woodpeckers and also birds like nuthatches.


Woodpeckers love suet. We would recommend our Pine Tree Farms Peanut Butter or Insect Suet.

Sunflower Chips
Woodpeckers enjoy sunflower seed and sunflower chips in particular. We recommend our Mother Nature's Medium Sunflower Chips served in a tray feeder or fly through feeder

Jay and Woodpecker Mix
Our Mother Nature's Jay and Woodpecker mix is a good all purpose mix for attracting woodpeckers. It has a high peanut content and also has striped sunflower seed which many of these larger woodpeckers have no trouble handling.

For more information on these products see our website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Getting Ready for Winter Bird Feeding

Now that winter is approaching, there are a few things that we have remember to do before the snow arrives:

Feeder Preparation
It is always good to clean and repair your bird feeders before winter starts. Take them apart if possible, and clean them properly. To do that add 5ml of bleach, (more or less one teaspoon full) to 4 liters of water. Bleach will help to get rid of harmful bacteria that might be present. An old toothbrush or small brush comes in very handy to clean the corners or small spaces. Once they are clean, remember to put your feeders in a spot where you will be able to see them and where they can be easily accessed for filling and cleaning. 

Bird Bath Preparation
If you have a heated bird bath for the winter remember to clean it to before using it again this year. Don't forget to keep an eye open for algae when the bird bath is in use and to periodically clean your bird bath throughout the winter season.

Bird House Preparation
It can be surprising to see how much birds make use of available shelters during the cold winter months. If you don't have any bird houses up in your yard, consider adding some prior to winter arriving. If you do have some up, now is the time to clean them in preparation for winter.

So now that we are ready for winter bird feeding, which birds can we expect to see at our feeders during the winter months? On the prairies here, some of the more common birds that are seen at backyard bird feeders include: chickadees,nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, house finches, purple finches, pine siskins, and redpolls. For more information on these birds and what mixes to feed them see other articles on this blog or our website.

This article was written for us by our Saskatchewan bird expert  - Willie Delport

Monday, October 24, 2016

What birds to expect at your feeder this winter - on the Canadian Prairies

So you have followed all the backyard preparation steps and you are getting excited about what birds you will see at your feeders this winter.  Who should you expect?  Here are some of the usual suspects that we see at our feeders out here on the Canadian Prairies.    



These lovely and friendly little birds will be constant visitors at our feeders for the whole winter. They can get so tame that they will actually eat out of your hand. They will also let you know when you forget to put seed in the feeders. They like to eat black oil sunflower, sunflower chips (kernels), red-skinned peanuts and mixed tree nuts.

We recommend that you feed them our: Chickadee and Nuthatch mix, Nutty Temptations mix, as well as our No Mess Gardeners Mix.

Nuthatches  (Red-breasted and the White- breasted )

At our feeders, the Red- breasted Nuthatch is a regular visitor. Like chickadees they are very active. Always trying to find a spot to hide the seed.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is also a visitor at our feeders. Not as common as the Red-breasted Nuthatches, but we will see also see them in the winter.

Like chickadees, nuthatches enjoy black oil sunflower, sunflower chips, red-skinned peanuts and mixed tree nuts. 

We recommend that you feed them our: Chickadee and Nuthatch mix, Nutty Temptations mix, as well as our No Mess Gardeners Mix.


Downy woodpeckers are regular visitors at our feeders through to the winter. One year we were surprised to see a pair of parents bringing their young offspring, all four of them, to the feeders at the beginning of August. There, the parents showed the young how to eat the tree nuts from the feeder.

Hairy woodpeckers, like the Downy’s, are regular visitors at our feeders during winter. They might show up a couple of times in summer, but not that often. They look very similar to the Downy's but are quite a bit bigger.

Both of these woodpeckers like good quality mixed tree nuts in particular but will also eat sunflower chips, red-skinned peanuts and suet.

We recommend that you put feed them our: Jay & Woodpecker Mix, our Nutty Temptations mix, or pure tree nuts.   They also enjoy suet. 

House and Purple finches

The House and Purple finches are also regulars at our feeders during summer as well as in winter. Like all finches they like to eat black oil sunflower seed , sunflower chips, and nyjer seed. 

We recommend that you give them our: Mother Nature's Wild Finch mix, or feed them pure black oil sunflower or sunflower chips.

Pine Siskins  

They will be at the feeders this winter again. We’ve seen them every winter and with the trees loaded with cones here in our town we’ll see them again.

They like to eat sunflower chips and nyjer seed and the other seeds in our Mother Nature's Wild Finch mix.  Alternatively, you could feed them just  pure black oil sunflower or sunflower chips.

Redpolls  (Common and Hoary)

The Common and Hoary redpolls look very similar . The Hoary have a lighter color than the Common Redpoll. These little birds are so much fun to watch. They came from way up north, from the tundra. If the food crop in the north is not very good , they will come down south. In the winter of 2015-2016 we had hundreds of them at our feeders. Lets keep an eye out for them. Normally they will show up around the middle of December.

These little birds love black oil sunflower, sunflower chips and nyjer seed.   

We recommend feeding them our Mother Nature's Wild Finch Mix, pure medium sunflower chips or pure black oil sunflower.  

Now we want to hear from you.  Tell us about your experience. What birds are at your feeders this winter?  What seed mixes do they prefer?  We enjoy getting your backyard feeding tips and pictures.  

This article was written for us by our Saskatchewan bird expert  - Willie Delport


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Planting for the Birds

With the May long weekend approaching, gardeners are chomping at the bit to get out and get plants in the ground if they haven't already started.  If you are one of those gardeners and if you are still trying to decide on what to plant this year, we have a few suggestions for plants that will attract birds while beautifying your yard.  

Annual Plants for Hummingbirds

Many people enjoy seeing hummingbirds, so planting something to attract them into your backyard may interest you.  Hummingbirds have long, thin bills that are ideal for probing into trumpet shaped flowers to find the nectar they are seeking. They also seem to be more attracted to flowers that are red in colour. At the greenhouse, search for annuals that are high in nectar production such as fuchsias, nasturtiums, snapdragons, dianthus, foxglove, impatiens, and petunias.

Annual Plants for Seed Eating Birds

Seed eating birds are very attracted to the seed heads in flowers. Unfortunately, the seeds in the flowers are not available to the birds until the seed head has dried out.  So during the season, either refrain from deadheading or flowers or if you do, save the seed heads, and once they have dried out, offer them to the birds in a tray feeder. Once fall is here, leave your flowers and the seed heads standing and you will have the birds visiting even in colder weather conditions. Annuals you can look for at the greenhouse for attracting seed eating birds include cosmos, cornflower, marigolds, zinnias, black eyed susans, daisies, impatiens, and sunflower mixes.

Perennial plants to consider

If you prefer not to plant a lot of bedding plants, you may want to look into perennials. There are a variety of choices available with high nectar production to attract those hummingbirds.  Look for bee balm, phlox, columbines, coral bells, hollyhock, foxglove and lupines.  

Vines and shrubs to consider

Even when planting shrubs, vines, and trees, there are certain varieties you can look for that will attract more birds.  Consider plants with berries such as dogwood, mountain ash, chokecherry bushes or trees, Russian olives, and crabapple trees. Also consider shrubs or climbing vines that have a high nectar production like morning glory or honeysuckle vines (a hummingbird favorite).

With this information, you can see that attracting birds to your yard is not only about what feeders you have in your yard. Birds are looking for the right environment, including plants (and water!), when deciding whether to spend time in your backyard.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Check out Alberta Birds Facebook group

One of the Facebook groups that I belong to is Alberta Birds.  It is a wonderful group, full of very active members.  Every day I get to see wonderful photographs of birds that people have seen in the wild or the backyard.

What is particularly good about the page is that I can get an idea of what birds are currently in the area and this helps me plan what sort of birdseed to put in my feeders.

For example, right now I am seeing quite a few postings on redpolls.  So that tells me that I should have my feeder full of seed that redpolls will enjoy.

The other great thing about Alberta Birds is that you are able to post a picture of a bird and get some help with identifying it. 

So check it out and get networked with some of the other active birders in Alberta.

What to feed Redpolls:
Redpolls love our Mother Nature's Finch mix which has some of their favorite seeds including nyjer seed, fine-cut sunflower kernels, and canola seed. See our website for info on where to find our bird seed in Alberta.