If you put food out for the birds, you’ll know they can be pretty messy eaters. Seed on the ground not only looks untidy, but it also attracts unwanted visitors to your garden. Birds are simply picking out the food they prefer, and discarding the rest.
Why Do Birds Seem To Throw Seed From Feeders?
Birds don’t always throw food out of the feeder, but it may look as though that’s what they’re doing.
There are a few reasons why seed will fall on the floor.
- Birds will dig in to find the food they prefer and in doing this, they will dislodge any other seeds which are in the way, so that they fall out of the feeder.
- It may also be the quality of the seed you are feeding them. Like the rest of us, birds like good quality food. If you are feeding them cheap seeds, they may simply dislike it and throw it out to try to find the good stuff.
- Sometimes the seeds they drop, aren’t seeds. If they have sunflower seeds, they will remove the outer husk to eat the seed inside. They then discard these husks, which look like they are throwing the seed away.
- You may also need to look at the type of feeder you have. If you have a table feeder, then it will be very easy for seed and other food to fall on the ground. Simply by moving it around on the table, the birds will eventually move it close to the edge so it drops.
Why We Don’t Want Seed On The Ground
Most of us like to keep a tidy garden, particularly if we want to attract birds. Having seed lying on the floor simply makes the garden look uncared for, but there are also more practical reasons for trying to stop seed from falling on the ground.
- Any food on the ground can attract rodents, which aren’t always welcome.
- If the seed on the ground is left, it can start to go moldy. If another bird then comes along to eat it, this mold can be harmful to them.
- Depending on the seeds which are being dropped, this can have an effect on your soil and grass. Some seeds can be quite toxic, and can actually stop certain plants from growing.
- If your feeder is over grass or soil, then the seeds can germinate and start growing. This can cause problems as well as make your lawn look very untidy. The easiest way to prevent this is to move the feeder to an area of your garden where it will not be able to germinate. You can also place a flagstone or rocks under the feeder.
Can You Prevent It?
The good news is, there are some very simple solutions to keep your garden seed free.
- If you notice the birds simply discarding the food, check to see what’s in it. You may find it has a lot of filler food such as millet, wheat or barley, and not so many lovely seeds. Next time you go seed shopping, check the ingredients to make sure it contains a good mix of quality seeds. Sunflower and safflower seeds are popular with many garden birds.
- Check out the birds in your garden, and put up feeders with the foods they prefer. It’s often a good idea to have separate feeders aimed at different birds, and it means you have less food on the ground. Try a separate feeder for nuts and one for seeds and you can even separate the types of seed you put out, rather than put them all in one feeder.
- Look at the type of feeder you are using and the food you have in it. Seed feeders don’t need large feeding ports, or the seeds will simply fall out. Table feeders are great, but get one with a lip around the edge. This way, if birds do push the food to the edge, it is less likely to fall, and another bird can come along and eat it off the table. Suet feeders are a good choice as the suet holds the seeds together so they can’t fall to the ground.
One thing you may want to consider is a way to catch the seed so it doesn’t land on the ground. There are many ways you can do this and most methods are simple to implement. If you have a hanging feeder, attach a sieve underneath to catch any seeds. Adding a feed catcher tray underneath a table feeder, will similarly catch anything that drops off.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can I stop seeds from growing when they land on the ground?
You can buy non germinating bird seed. This is bird seed which has been de hulled or cut, which prevents it from germinating. It also means the birds don’t have to open the husks and leave them lying around.
You can also sterilize the seeds yourself. Before you put it in the feeder, cook it at 300 degrees for half an hour. This will not affect the taste or quality of the seed.
How can I protect my grass?
Seed landing on grass can be a problem, particularly if you cannot move the feeder to another area. Keeping your grass free from sprouting seeds will be a regular job.
- Rake the grass to remove any sprouting seeds.
- Use a garden vacuum to suck up any loose seeds
These will need to be done at least once a week, and if you simply can’t manage this, you may need to look at placing something under the feeder which is easier to clean, such as a slab of stone.
I’ve switched my seed and they’re still discarding it.
This may be because you are offering them one type of food when they prefer another. It’s always important to check the species you are feeding, and make sure you provide their favorite foods.
- Black oil sunflower: These are popular with cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees and finches.
- Safflower: Most birds will eat these, but if you have cardinals, chickadees or finches, make sure you have some out.
- Nyjer: Goldfinches, house finches and chickadees love nyjer seeds.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop birds from throwing away food they don’t like. Providing them with alternatives will go a long way towards keeping your garden cleaner, and the birds happier and well fed. Using different feeders with single food items in them, will also give the birds a little more variety with where they go to feed.