Silly me, I had always thought that the Goldfinches were attracted to those tiny filler seeds that I mentioned above, but now I've learned from experience that they love sunflower seeds almost as much as they love nyjer/thistle seed. Here they are lined up to get to the tube feeder that's (half) full of sunflower seeds.
I think of the food that we offer as being in two categories: standard fare, and treats. The standard fare is all of the seed that we offer (sunflower, safflower and nyjer) and suet cakes, while the treats consist of whole raw peanuts in the shell and homemade bird dough. Standard fare is offered to our birds year round, while treats only make an appearance during the winter months. (Let us not forget that there is sugar water offered for the hummingbirds during the summer months, too.)
In regards to the treats, the peanuts are most loved by the Titmice and the Blue Jays. Interestingly, though, the Jays are only interested in the peanuts when there's snow on the ground. Otherwise, the Titmice have the peanuts all to themselves. The occasional White-breasted Nuthatch or Red-bellied Woodpecker will enjoy a peanut every once in a while, too, but not like the Titmice!
The nut's as big as his head!
And then there's the bird dough. Some folks call it Zick dough, due to the fact that Julie Zickefoose helped to make it madly popular through the powers of the internets, but she admits that having the dough named after her makes her feel "a little squeamy." (Julie, is that a cross between "squeamish" and "squirmy"?) To that end, I've just started calling it bird dough. There is a back story to the current iteration of the bird dough recipe, and I really encourage you to read it HERE on Julie's blog. It describes the nutritional rationale behind the recipe, and how it came to be. If this is something you think you would like to make for your birds, please take the time to read Julie's post about it.
So would you like to know the recipe? (Warren and Lisa, I know you've been waiting for this.) Since I make so much of it in the winter, I keep the recipe pinned up to the refrigerator (along with a reminder of the proportions for bleach water for cleaning the feeders!) The recipe goes something like this:
Actually, I've already started to modify the recipe a little from what I have written here, kicking up the peanut butter to 1-1/2 cups and decreasing the lard to 1/2 cup. Also, I've increased the chick starter to 2-1/2 cups, decreasing the cornmeal to 1/2 cup.
The ingredients corralled on the counter. Some assembly required.
This is the new star of the show: chick starter (the unmedicated variety only, please). This helps make the dough a little more nutritious. Available at feed stores (I got mine at Tractor Supply, only $8 for a 20-pound bag).
It's funny how I often think of other types of food as I make up these batches of dough. The chick starter reminds of Grape Nuts cereal (probably has about as much flavor as Grape Nuts, too!), and the dough as it's coming together in the bowl reminds me of no-bake cookie mix (minus the chocolate, of course):
I've taken to buying 40-ounce jars of el-cheapo peanut butter to put in this stuff, and the jars make great holding containers for the finished product. One great thing about this dough: no refrigeration required. I just keep jars of it sitting on the sideboard by our patio door, in close proximity to the feeders.
This stuff really is amazing in that it draws in all KINDS of birds. The only regular birds at our feeders who have shown no interest in it are the Goldfinches. I think it's possible that the dough has helped to boost the woodpecker attendance at our feeders this winter. We had another 5-woodpecker-species weekend this weekend, in fact, and I finally got photos of the Red-bellieds enjoying some dough (I had already gotten photos of the other 4 species at "the dough cup").
Female Red-belly on the left, male on the right
This is the Northern Flicker that fooled no one as my "mystery bird" from a few posts ago.
The dough crumbles nicely, and comes off in both large chunks and in tiny pieces. The large chunks are attractive to Titmice and Blue Jays, both of which love to STUFF THEIR FACES!
Tiny bits are good for tiny birds, like this demure Chickadee.
I don't know what's up with the bird on the left - there's no need to yell like that when someone is eating.
One thing that I really like about the dough is that birds who don't normally get to partake in suet can have a go at this. Examples are Cardinals, Mourning Doves and White-throated Sparrows.
Here's a complete list of the birds who enjoy bird dough at our feeders:
- Mourning Dove
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Northern Flicker
- Blue Jay
- Tufted Titmouse
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Carolina Wren
- White-throated Sparrow
- Northern Cardinal
Hopefully that list will grow this year to include Juncos and other Sparrows. Hey, I finally got that Pileated to come in, so anything is possible!
Happy Birding, and let me know if you try out the recipe!