Feeding Wild Birds

outlook_wildbirds_bannerThere are many different bird foods in the stores and the adage is true that you get what you pay for in bird seed. The less expensive seeds have less expensive ingredients and most likely the bird watcher will not be satisfied with the results. For the best results attracting birds it is necessary to buy better quality bird food. We have a great promotion going on with one of our premium birdseed suppliers, Wild Delight.

To the responsible person, the decision to feed wild birds is not a casual one. The dedicated bird feeder buys hundreds of pounds of feed each winter and at least a bird book and binoculars to identify and study the birds. Additionally, several times each week the food needs to be replenished, which over several months and years amounts to a substantial investment of time. Such a commitment carries with it the expectation of attracting a handsome, interesting variety of birds. Furthermore, most of us want to get the most for our time and money.

Selecting Bird Feed

There are many kinds of feeds available to attract birds. You can buy mixes or single types of feeds at supermarkets, livestock feed stores, garden supply stores, or through catalogs. The particular type of mix you put out influences the number and variety of birds that will use feeding places. Until recently, there has been little scientific information to guide the selection of bird feeds. Now we know much better what feeds attract or fail to attract different kinds of birds to feeders.

This information on relative attractiveness of bird feeds is based on 710,450 observations of birds choosing between two or more feeds at experimental feeders in Maryland, California, Ohio, and Maine. In these studies, black-striped sunflower and white prove millet were used as standards. All other feeds were presented at experimental feeding tables along with one or both of these standards to measure relative attractiveness. The work was done under the direction of the Urban Wildlife Research Program of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. However, the bulk of observations were made by volunteers.

Table 1 lists 18 kinds of birds that frequently visit feeders across the country, and their preferred foods. Many birds are generalists and will eat a variety of foods. However, even generalists have preferred foods. By presenting foods known to attract the birds you want to see, you will attract desired species and your feeders may be less attractive to unwanted birds, such as starlings.

Table 1. Preferred Foods of Common Birds.
American Goldfinch Hulled sunflower seeds, niger seeds, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Blue Jay Peanut kernels, black-stripe, gray-stripe, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Brown-headed cowbird White proso, red proso, German millet, and canary seed.
Cardinal Sunflower seeds of all types
Chickadees Oil-type and black-striped sunflower seeds, peanut kernels.
Dark-eyed junco Red proso, white proso millet, canary seed, and fine-cracked corn.
Common grackle Hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
Evening grosbeak Sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
House finch In Maryland, oil-type and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, and niger. In California, white prove millet and flax also readily taken.
House sparrow White proso millet, canary seed, and German (“golden”) millet.
Mourning dove Oil-type sunflower seeds, white prove millet, niger, and German (“golden”) millet.
Purple finch Sunflower seeds and kernels.
Starling Peanut hearts and hulled oats.
Song sparrow White and red prove millet.
Tufted titmouse Peanut kernels, black-striped and oil-type sunflower seeds.
White-crowned sparrow Oil-type sunflower seed, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, peanut kernels and hearts, niger seed.
White-throated sparrow Oil and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, and peanut kernels.
Sparrow Prove millet, and peanut kernels.

Sunflower seeds attract most seed-eating birds. The most attractive sunflower seed is the black, oil-type. Another outstanding food is a type of millet, known as white prove or white millet. White millet attracts house sparrows and brown-headed cowbirds. However, when there are small sparrow-like birds around, such as juncos and song sparrows, white prove millet is needed. The common cereal grains – sorghum, wheat, cracked corn, oats, and rice – rate significantly below black oil-type sunflower seed or white prove millet in feeding tests. Other relatively unattractive seeds are flax and canary. A common ingredient in mixes, peanut hearts, strongly attracts starlings. You can discourage house sparrows, brown-headed cowbirds, blue jays, and grackles while at the same time offering a moderately attractive food to cardinals and mourning doves by feeding safflower seeds. Safflower is of little interest to other bird species, however.

Rather than buying mixes, the bird feeder will spend his money more effectively by buying black, oil-type sunflower and white prove millet separately, in bulk from seed or animal feed dealers. Depending on the kinds of birds present, the amounts of these two best foods can be varied to attract the birds you want to see.

Presentation of Bird Foods

Having attractive bird feeds on hand is of course most important, but placement of those feeds is important too. Just as birds vary in size, shape, color, song, and preferred foods, so do birds differ in feeding behavior. Some feed almost exclusively in trees, others nearly always on the ground, and others are opportunists, feeding wherever they can find acceptable food. Using a variety of feeders, such as those shown on the cover illustration of this bulletin, makes sense.

Most common birds will visit platform feeders. They are simple to build, or you can buy hopper-style feeders that can be suspended by a wire or placed on a pole. Juncos, white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows, and towhees prefer to feed on the ground. These species will feed on seed kicked off platform feeders by other birds or on feed placed on the ground for them.

Hanging, tube-type feeders attract American goldfinches, chickadees, and a variety of other species. Tube feeders permit goldfinches to avoid competition with blue jays and grackles which take over platform feeders. Tube feeders will also attract pine siskins and red polls when they are in the area.

In general, ground feeders prefer white millet, whereas birds attracted to tube feeders prefer oil-type sunflower. Therefore, white millet and mixes rich in millet should not be used in tubes or other elevated feeders with small perching surfaces. Suet attached to tree trunks in wire baskets is attractive to woodpeckers and, unfortunately, starlings. In addition to food, birds readily use water placed near feeders.

Most people concentrate their feeding efforts during the winter months. Satisfaction comes not only from attracting good numbers of birds, but also because winter feeding helps birds survive the rigors of cold, icy, and snowy weather. Actually, feeding birds year-round is enjoyable. Because naturally produced seeds are uncommon in the spring and summer, flocks of gold finches and house finches visit tube feeders filled with oil-type sunflower seeds in the growing season. Cardinals, chickadees, and mourning doves will visit daily. Young birds, often with clumps of down still attached, will come with their parents.

Many people believe once a feeding program is started that it must be maintained without interruption. However, birds in any locality visit several feeding sites daily and will waste little time at an empty feeder. Although abundant food at feeders during the winter helps birds, occasional periods of emptiness are unlikely to result in starvation.

Landscaping for Birds

The attractiveness of a feeding area is greatly enhanced by a landscape rich in trees and shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen. Bird feeders placed in areas with large lawns and few trees and shrubs attract few birds. Consider managing open areas as meadows rather than as lawns. A rich growth of grasses and flowering plants provides cover for nesting in the spring and summer and natural sources of seeds during the winter.

Authors: Peter T. Bromley; Aelred D. Geis In cooperation with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University

Order Now Using Program Number: W12S9

Turn Customer Service into a NO-Brainer with Trunk Mat!

outlook_T99_bannerTrunk Mat customers all have one very important thing in common, they are all successful garden centers!

Their customers stand above the competition and the big boxes because they understand that a plastic sheet goes a long way to letting customers know how important they are. The way a customer feels in a garden center and their experience with the staff is what will keep them loyal and coming back. Trunk Mats are the one and only product available to garden centers that is solely about customer service!

Trunk Mats say thank you without even having to say it at all. Trunk Mats save staff valuable time from running around trying to find anything that will protect the customer’s car. Trunk Mats are durable and waterproof fostering the customer to reuse and keep them in their auto reminding them of your business. Trunk Mats advertise and are branded to a particular business with custom information. Trunk Mats educate and empower customers with information to create success with their plants. Trunk Mats are environmentally friendly, made from recycled film, recyclable and reusable. Trunk Mats save environmental resources and customer’s money from needing to vacuum and clean their autos. Trunk Mats are a NO-Brainer!

Almost 30 years ago, Dave Garlock created an amazing new product and built a successful business in his dining room with his wife and family. The Garlock family, thru hard work and faith, has made Trunk Mats a recognized staple in the lawn and garden industry. Dave’s almost 50 years experience in plastics and horticultural packaging, along with his family’s dedication to customer service and growth, has made The Trunk Mat Company a leading supplier to successful lawn and garden’s across the United States.

The Trunk Mat Company is 100% American owned and operated. They manufacture their mats in the United States. Their product was specifically made for the independent garden center who understands how important and easy customer service can be.

Trunk Mats are a NO-Brainer!

Order Now Using Program Number: T99S3

Boost Interaction & Sales with Home Preserving

outlook_preserving_bannerIt’s no secret that food gardening is bringing eager neophytes into garden centers. Even long-established ornamental gardeners are reserving more space for vegetables and fruit, or combining food plants and ornamentals in attractive potagers. The important thing to notice in this trend: it’s about food.

Your garden center may be benefiting from increased sales in seeds, seedlings, brambles, fruit trees, mulch, pest management products, fencing, trellises, irrigation systems and other food gardening-specific products. But how are you doing at the other end, during the harvest? Perhaps you can bring customers back with a well-marketed line of home-preserving gear.

Extension services report they always fill beginner courses on home preserving. If you can host, a local Cooperative Extension office may authorize a Master Preserver to teach. Alternatively, local newspapers or regional magazines might recommend food or garden writers to teach preserving.

Of course, you may have the requisite experience to teach home-preserving yourself, but be sure to review USDA guidelines before organizing a class. The USDA now considers dangerous some practices they recommended in the 1980s.

Ideally, schedule demos throughout the year. Use local produce to teach various preserving methods. Strawberries and rhubarb make great jam and freezable pies. Use sour cherries and it might be the first time many of your customers have even seen them raw. Tomatoes deserve several demos (canning diced tomatoes, sauces, dehydrating) and sweet corn has its own challenges. Don’t overlook herbs; customers can save a fortune by growing their own and then drying or freezing them. If you can’t offer demonstrations, create a display of preserved products along with the gear used to preserve them. A variety of canned foods distributed among canning tools will draw attention while dehydrator trays filled with freshly dried fruits and herbs can be a compelling conversation starter.

To promote canning, find USDA-tested recipes for products customers can’t find in stores: Homemade salsas, chutneys, jams, jellies, relishes, barbecue sauces and pickles are all easy to sample with tiny plastic spoons or crackers. Deliver a dramatic flavor combination by offering halved ginger snaps to dunk in homemade lemon curd.

The best demo won’t be enough to enable someone new to home preserving. Include in your displays at least one easy-to-follow book and, perhaps, fliers from Cooperative Extension. If they’re not in the books you’re selling, print recipes for whatever samples your customers have tasted.

If you have the shelf space, don’t treat preserving as a seasonal activity. Stores tend to put out preserving gear too late in spring and remove it from shelves in late autumn. But winter brings amazing prices on pineapples, mangoes and avocados.

Always tie your home preserving products back to the garden. A customer who gets the “bug” might require a larger garden. Where before a hill of cucumbers lasted the summer, it could take three or four hills to fill canning jars with pickles and relish. Where six tomato plants were enough for salads and sandwiches in season, canning might demand 14 or 20 plants. Help preserving enthusiasts calculate how much to plant to assure they’ll have enough to stock their larders.

Finally, include cold storage in your repertoire. A simple cold storage system might involve plastic tubs and damp sand. You could provide kits for customers to manage homegrown root vegetables all winter in their basements.

Home preserving offers the opportunity to sell canning pots, jars, lids, funnels, jar-lifters, seasonings, fruit pectin, pickling lime, citric acid, freezer containers, freezer bags, dehydrators, slicers, food mills, storage shelves, cutting boards, cutlery, storage boxes, sand or sawdust, fermentation tanks and how-to and recipe books.

Written by Daniel Gasteiger who wrote the book “Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too” from Cool Springs Press. He writes about gardening and cooking and speaks enthusiastically about growing, preserving and cooking food.

The Page Seed Company

outlook_P83_bannerAmerican owned and operated, The Page Seed Company has been supporting independent garden centers since 1896. Page Seed, just like their customers, is a small company always striving to do their best by providing customers a product that they can trust and are always trying to accommodate their needs. Many years ago they decided that their primary focus was to ensure that dealers and their customers received a product that has the best germination available in the market, and they stand behind that promise. They also made a promise that none of their retail products are genetically engineered and have gone to the extent of making sure that all of their seed packets have that in print. It is important to today’s gardener that the products they buy, plant, harvest and consume are safe and can be trusted.

Their range of brands was developed in order to meet three key objectives: price point, value, and type of gardener. Page’s Premium has the largest variety selection of their brands, with over 200 varieties and a price point of $1.69. High fill weights give the gardener value and the broad selection targets the savvy gardener. Liberty Garden, with a streamlined offering, targets more of the hobby gardener at a value conscious price of $.89. This brand has all the basic varieties for the average gardener and is the #1 independent garden center brand they offer. In September of 2011, they designed this brand so that their independents could compete against the big box stores. They built value and quality into one brand. Two years ago they launched Page’s Organics to meet the demands of the ever growing organic community. The numbers continue to grow in this category and they feel that their organic line completes their line up. What makes their product lines different than the others? Page Seed offers brands to fit the needs of their customers. They take three different lines of business and give consumers a choice. Other seed companies take a brand and “sell” it at a different price. They choose to give options based upon offerings, value and price point, not cost. A customer can always be assured of high germination, regardless of brand chosen.

At Page’s Seeds, from planting the first seed all the way to harvest, they are dedicated to helping their customers grow. They will continue to support their independent garden centers and independent distributors.

They thank you for your trust!

Order Now Using Program Number: P83S2

Orcon Mason Bees – The Perfect Pollinator For The Home Gardener

outlook_O32a_bannerDid you know that bees are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat? Those little pollinators are important! No wonder there is concern about the declining populations and colony collapse of the European Honey Bee. Why not turn to our native Mason Bee for your local solution.

Mason Bees are found naturally all over North America. There are 402 species that live in the United States, but we tend not to notice them because they are dark blue in color and look like large flies. They are not susceptible to the same problems facing honey bees nor do they interfere with honey bees. Mason bees are different than honey bees because they do not have a queen, do not make hives, and do not make honey. Because they do not have these things to protect, they don’t sting and are safe around children and pets.

Mason Bees are excellent pollinators, 120 times more effective than honey bees. Other bees carry most of the pollen they collect back to the hive. Because Mason Bees do not have a hive of all the pollen they collect, it stays with them, plus they are more “scruffy” than honey bees. They have a lot of hair on their bodies and don’t bother to clean it very much, so as they go from flower to flower they pick up lots of pollen and transfer it to more flowers.

Mason Bees emerge in early Spring when temperatures are still cold, long before honey bees become active and when fruit trees begin to bloom. This increased pollination will improve the yield on fruit trees and increase the quantity and quality of blooms on flowering plants and herbs.

Mason Bees are often referred to as “solitary bees” because they do not have a social structure like other bees. The females prefer to find holes in wood or walls that have been made by other insects, cleaning out these holes, to lay their eggs. Starting at the back, she deposits an egg, a little pollen and nectar, and then builds a wall to seal in the egg. This wall building is why they are called “mason” bees. She will repeat this process about 8 to 10 times for each tunnel, covering up the entrance with mud to protect the eggs from other insects and weather, laying 25 to 35 eggs in her one season life time.

The eggs will hatch into larvae and feed on the pollen and nectar while maturing in their little protective cell. They pupate in the cell and emerge from the tunnel as adult Mason Bees. They quickly begin foraging for food and mating with other Mason Bees which starts the process all over again.

Orcon has a Mason Bee nest available for the home gardener, called Plan Bee. When naturally occurring female Mason Bees find the tubes in these habitats, it’s like finding a new condo that doesn’t have to be cleaned out, so they just move right in and start laying eggs for next year’s crop of happy pollinators. Live Blue Orchard Mason Bees, Osmia lignaria, are available as cocoons. Shipped January thru March they can be stored in the refrigerator at 32 to 35 degrees for several months. Set them out in a nest before the buds begin to swell in the spring to cultivate your own pollinating colony.

Order Now Using Program Number: O32D1

2015 Holiday Trends & Merchandise Update From Good Tidings

outlook_G48a_bannerGood Tidings has been busily preparing for their 2015 Holiday Market, now open to all customers. We’re very excited by new technology in trees and lighting. In trees, Quick Set Perfect Shape technology continues to be a big hit with customers. These trees literally set up in 5 minutes; the electricity is in the trunk so there are no cords to connect between sections of the tree. The tree needs no shaping as the branches are made with memory wire. This is a great time saver for stores as well as consumers. Look for our new styles of trees with dual color LED lighting which changes from clear to multi. Click here to learn more about our tree offering.

In lighting, LED continues to be an energy saving option but incandescent still outsells LED. We are seeing a greater interest in old-fashioned bulbs such as C7 & C9. LED lights are really effective in outdoor décor. Don’t miss our new snowflakes that are backlit with LED for an interesting and beautiful display. Holiday sentiments such as “JOY” and “HO HO HO” are very popular in outdoor décor. Click here to learn more about Incandescent Lights and LED Lights.

Themes for 2015

Our favorite theme: “Chalkboard” – captures this current trend with ornaments made with chalkboard paint, rustic snowmen, burlap ornaments, adorable snowmen dressed in tweed and herringbone.

Our Natural themes are: “The Nest” – birds, birdhouse, nests and snowflakes in a muted brown and turquoise color scheme. “Into The Woods” – deer and fox nestle among natural elements. “Mittens” – Santa and Snowmen wearing mittens of course! “Woodsy” – an elegant coloration in soft beige, silver and white, accented with gilt magnolia leaves.

Our Traditional themes are: “Merry Merry” – fun group in red, white and green with Santa, with a paper chain garland. “Gilded Crimson” – a sophisticated collection of rich reds and golds with velvety red poinsettias and a touch of glamour. “Vintage” – retro ornaments that will remind you of your childhood tree complete with silver tinsel.

Our Fashion themes are: “Coastal” – soft and inviting with shells and sea life all in a sandy beige and aqua scheme. “Brights” – a colorful and fun group full of bright colors. “Tuxedo” – elegant black and gold with lots of sparkle. “Frozen” – silver and black with LED lighting, very icy looking. “Arctic Frost” – soft blues and silvers with snowy accents.

Good Tidings: Halloween & Harvest

Halloween as a category has continued to grow and if Halloween falls on a weekend, sales are very healthy. Good Tidings offers a great assortment of Halloween and fall merchandise, from orange and purple mini lights, to pumpkin carving kits to scarecrows and fall wreaths. Stock your shelves with spiders, ghosts and ghouls and add a few witches and goblins to create an eerie display that your customers will enjoy. Click here to watch a video on our Halloween & Harvest offering.

You’ll get to see all this and much more at our showroom, which opened on January 5, 2015. We have over a thousand new items! Make your appointment today – email Dottie at dking@good-tidings.com or call 410-360-6614. We strongly urge you to schedule your appointments during our early buy period from January 5 to March 13 for best product selection, pricing and showroom only specials:

  • Special Deals – Showroom orders placed in January are eligible for an Extra 30 days dating.
  • Super Savers: reduced pricing on select items including wreaths, garlands, trees stands and bows.
  • Exceptional Values: special pricing on upscale trees and outdoor décor.
  • Extra discounts: additional 10% on a variety of items.

Click here to watch our showroom video or click here to browse our amazing assortment of products online

Hope to see you soon!
The Good Tidings Team