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Better Bird Feeding

The Martha Stewart Show, November 2010

As fall turns to winter, birds flock to backyard feeders in search of sustenance. Their presence provides a welcome bit of wildlife near the home, and feeders help local bird populations survive during the colder months.

Feathered friends can be discerning eaters, though, so make sure to buy the right seed for local species, keep it safely stored, and clean your feeder every once in a while.

Types of Birdseed
Depending on what type of birds you hope to attract, you may opt to use one or more of these birdseed varieties.

General Seed Mix
Composed of cracked corn, white proso millet, and peanut hearts, general seed mix attracts a wide array of birds, such as blue jays, doves, and red-winged blackbirds.

Thistle Seed
Thistle seed is suitable for attracting smaller birds, such as goldfinches and siskins. Also called Nyjer seed, its high oil content is easily converted into energy.

Sunflower Seeds
Perfect for attracting cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches, sunflower seeds -- particularly black-oil sunflower seeds -- are among the healthiest foods a bird can eat.

Suet attracts the same type of birds as sunflower seeds, and it's especially popular with woodpeckers. Suet is made of animal fat plus a mixture of seeds, peanut butter, berries, and/or insects.

Storing Seed
It's important to keep birdseed in a cool, dry place -- overheating can ruin its taste and nutritional value, and moisture can cause seeds to mold. Martha recommends storing your feed in galvanized pails and labeling your containers so you don't forget which variety is which.

How to Clean a Bird Feeder
To keep your feeder in pristine condition, it's important to empty it and clean it out twice a year. Scrubbing with dish detergent works well for most feeders, and you can rinse it off with a garden hose. To completely sterilize your feeder, soak it in a bucket of 10 percent nonchlorine bleach solution, rinse well, and let it air-dry under the sun.

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