Best birdseed combination?

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Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Radford, VA
Martin Colony History: Lucky to have inherited an established colony in a lakefront Heath house, 18 units. 2020 was my first full season, mostly observing. Still learning how to be a responsible landlord.

Being new Martin landlords, what a do we put in our regular bird feeders to bring only the birds who won’t torment the martins? I know Nyjer and safflower are disliked by by the starlings and sparrows. Before we moved up from central NC, we had no luck with safflower. In this new house, it may be different. I know corn and sunflower are OUT, right? What else might the other birds like? TIA.

So far as feeding the martins, I’m saving eggshells and have stocked up a few mealworms. I expect we will have plenty of skeeters to oblige them, but just in case . . .
Black Jack
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon May 06, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: NC

Black oil sunflowers, peanuts, safflowers. Always brings cardinal, woodpeckers, finches, towhees, chickadees. tufted titmice.
Don not care for the finches. Can buy 3D green bag which this mix comes in.
Bird Brain
Posts: 150
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:22 am
Location: Highland Village, TX
Martin Colony History: 2017-nothing
2018-1 visitor
2020-the most visitors/activity by far after making many site improvements. Unsuccessful SY Male visited for 2 weeks.

I personally dislike all bird seed . Half of it gets spilled on the ground and then becomes rat feed. Shine a flashlight out there after dark and you’ll see. Once the rats discover the endless amount of spilled seed, they will return every night to consume it and use that energy to reproduce more rats and mice. There is no seed rats and mice dislike. More squirrels will also result. Native species don’t need your assistance anyway. A bird bath is a better alternative. A large concrete bird bath near a popular window will offer far superior bird viewing opportunities than a bird feeder. Put in under shade if possible. I use a large tea strainer to clean mine and only change out the water once or twice a week. I have yet to see mosquito larvae in mine because I keep it maintained. You can pick one up for around $250.
Every time I kill a house sparrow, I make the world a better place.
Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 643
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:20 pm
Location: So. Central TX
Martin Colony History: All Troyer Horizontal Gourds with Conley Entrances
PMCA Member since 2004

We’ve only ever fed safflower and nyger seed. For Sixteen years never had any house sparrows at our feeders. For some reason that all changed this winter. We’ve been seeing HS at the safflower feeder and in our bushes. If this continues we’ll be taking our feeders down. We have three birdbaths and get bluebirds as well as a lot of other nice songbirds visiting. I know the bluebirds will continue to come since they don’t eat birdseed but I’d hate to lose all the other birds like cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmouse, goldfinches, etc.
I recently read that HS like black oily sunflower seeds but not the striped because it’s too hard to crack open. Don’t know if that’s a fact though.
Posts: 220
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:35 pm
Location: Marlboro County, SC
Martin Colony History: Capacity: 72 Troyers on 3 X Super-24 racks

We use safflower seeds. The crackles and cowbirds don't like it :grin: .
Location: Marlboro County, SC

2020: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/11 - 71 pair - 298 hatched as of last nest check.
2019: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22 - 70 pair - 315 fledged
2018: Capacity: 70 - First Scouts: 2/18 - 60 pair - 270 fledged
2017: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 2/25 - 39 pair
2016: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 3/10 - 32 pair
2015: Capacity: 24 - First Scouts: 3/23 - 4 pair

Purple Martins Of South Carolina
2020 Season
Posts: 319
Joined: Mon May 12, 2014 1:02 pm
Location: Western KY
Martin Colony History:

Tried to attract PMs since 2004; began a more ernest attempt in 2014.

2018 — 3 pairs: 1 ASY pair & 1 SY pair in the Trio; 1 SY pair in a supergourd on the gourd multi-rack.

2019 — 6 pairs

2020 — In progress

Current housing consists of two modified Trio M12Ks at 20' and a round gourd rack at 20'.

We've also provided housing for bluebirds, Carolina wrens, house wrens, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, great-crested flycatchers and northern flickers for ~15 years.

You might find the Project FeederWatch website useful. Attached below is the page with info about the types of seed and feeders house sparrows utilize ( ). Having that info can help you avoid attracting them. We've found the type of feeder and where it is placed is nearly as important as what food we offer. We modified an enclosed bluebird feeder into a seed feeder that we fill with black oil sunflower, golden or white safflower, and occasionally crushed peanuts. Most European starlings have trouble entering it but it allows other birds such as cardinals, Carolina wrens, titmice, chickadees, and house finches admittance. We also have a squirrel/starling resistant suet feeder with a removable solid bottom plate. We're able to leave the plate out much of the year but replace it when we start seeing starlings — generally, this time of year when they start looking for nesting cavities. We also have a small metal mesh nyjer feeder for goldfinches and we put out grape jelly in spring for migrating orioles. The tray we put eggshells on during breeding season doubles as a feeder for bluebirds during winter (suet nuggets, dried mealworms, and occasionally grapes or soaked chopped raisins).

With the exception of european starlings and house sparrows none of the birds mentioned are problematic to martins and they offer extra eyes to watch and sound the alarm when predators are near. We also haven't had any issue with mice or rats *knock-knock-knock*.

You may also find the article, "Why Do We Feed Birds—And Should We? A Q&A With The Experts" interesting and informing, ... e-experts/ .

If you start having problems with house sparrows or starlings you can temporarily take down your feeders until they disperse. There are also additional "passive" measures you can take or you can move on to "active" management.

  • * Note that in some areas, HOSP will eat anything including suet, from any style feeder.Do not offer seed that contains white proso millet (the little round seeds that come in many mixtures) or cracked corn (or offer seed mixes with less than 35% millet and 15% cracked corn if you want to attract juncos, native sparrows, and mourning doves).

    * Do not feed bread.

    * Safflower seeds, nuts, and thistle (niger/nyger/nyjer), and sometimes black oil sunflower seeds, may not be preferred by House Sparrows, but may be eaten if food is scarce, so selective feeding is not an effective deterrent. (Brad from Wisconsin reported that HOSP in his area prefer black oil sunflower to striped).

    * If feeding thistle, choose a goldfinch style feeder that requires birds to hang upside down to feed (with the feeding port below the perch.)

    * Put a hoop device such as the Magic Halo on your bird feeder, which repels an estimated 88-94% of HOSP in winter, 84% of summer. Other birds are not repelled. Hang hobby wire (28-30 gauge or the thinnest lightest weight you can find) from the hoop at 4 equidistant points, weighted with a fishing weight or metal nut so incoming birds do not get tangled in it. See more info on the Magic Halo.

    * If other people in your neighborhood are feeding HOSP, talk with them and give them a copy of a HOSP advisory to explain the impact to bluebirds.

    * Try feeding black oil sunflower seeds (which HOSP may eat) in Duncraft's smallest "satellite globe" feeder (one portal) hung from a wire or string, so it swings in the breeze.

    * Use seed port wires. In open port tube feeders with perches, bend a 10" piece of flexible wire in half. Feed the wire through the port, loop it over one perch and pull it tight and tie it off around the other perch. The strands of wire make it harder for the sparrow to get seed out of the feeder, but do not affect finches, chickadees, nuthatches or other desirable songbirds.

    * Trim wooden/plastic perches back to less than 5/8" to deter HOSP, grackles and starlings.

    * Use plastic mesh cut to fit in the bottom of a hopper type/trough feeders.

    * At feeding sites, fishing lines spaced 2 feet apart should repel 89-98% of HOSP.

    * For suet feeders, try feeding suet in a hanging cage, but only fill the cage half way so to force birds to cling to the bottom of the cage to feed. Neither starlings nor HOSP like to do this.

    * Remove bird feeders altogether. After about two weeks or more, the HOSP may move on, and you can put the feeders back up. Start with a suet or peanut feeder, or a thistle sock.

    * For agricultural operations, avoid careless feeding or grain handling that offers HOSP a lavish supply of food.
Good luck.
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Dave Duit
Posts: 1700
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2019, 54 pair with 218 fledged youngsters. 83 total compartments available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified trio metal house units, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit and join.

Just be sure NOT to offer millet. It attracts sparrows to the area; not good for your martins.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
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