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TALKIN WITH DOKKEN: Should I change what I feed to songbirds

Q. I have been reading the articles of how bad this winter has been and how there are programs for feeding the deer in northeast Minnesota. For the songbirds that I feed, should I be changing up their diet from the mixed seed I feed them regularly?

A. I didn’t have to go far for an answer to this one, as Herald Publisher Mike Jacobs, who writes the weekly “Always in Season” birding column in the Sunday Northland Outdoors section, is one of the area’s premier bird authorities and an avid feeder of birds. Here’s what he had to say:

“You ought to be offering black oilseed sunflower. Period. End of story. This is the single best food for any birds that are likely to show up in our area in the winter. Suet is excellent for woodpeckers, and that makes it worth offering as well. Most commercial blends contain sunflower, and that’s good, but they include other less attractive ingredients, and these will likely go to waste. So you’re best off with straight sunflower seed with a side of suet.

“Just to be clear: Your money will be better spent and your birds better fed on straight sunflower than on any of the commercial mixes on offer. Add suet for woodpeckers. Chickadees and nuthatches will appreciate it, too. Anything more will cost you money and won’t get you any more birds.”

Grand Forks birding expert Dave Lambeth, who served up a long-distance reply from a bird-watching trip to Ecuador, said there’s an ongoing debate among some birders about feeding, but he’s on the “pro” side of the coin. “Overall I think it is OK and fun to see who shows up,” Lambeth said in an email.

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