Feeding birds is a rewarding and enriching hobby, but the more hungry birds that visit your feeders, the more expensive buying bird seed can become. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to save money while feeding birds, no matter what your budget is.
Know What You’re Buying
Knowing exactly what comes in the bird foods you buy is the first step toward managing your bird feeding budget. Economy seed mixes may seem like the best deal when you only look at the price tag, but take a closer look.
Your money may be going to waste on filler seeds that few birds eat, like cracked corn, milo, or wheat. Very inexpensive mixes may even have large amounts of dust, twigs, and other inedible debris. Some pre-mixed nectar for hummingbirds and orioles may have unnecessary additives that increase the price. Suet blends could be filled with ingredients your birds don’t need or enjoy, but you pay a premium for those extras.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
Know Who You’re Feeding
Are the birds you want to see most the ones enjoying more meals? Or are bully birds, invasive species, or other less welcome birds taking advantage of your generosity? Some of your bird feeding budget might not be going to birds at all if squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife are raiding your feeders. Take careful note of who is visiting your feeders. It will help you make changes to help your budget while helping more birds.
How to Save Money on Birdseed
There are a number of easy ways to save on birdseed, no matter what seed you offer or which birds you prefer to feed.
Choose Higher Quality Birdseed
While premium mixes may be more expensive to purchase, they include less unpopular seeds and debris. Therefore, all the weight of the food will go toward feeding birds, rather than being spilled or wasted. Hulled sunflower seeds are a top choice that will attract many birds with no waste at all.
Make Your Own Mixes
If you prefer to offer mixed birdseed, make your own custom blends that are exactly suited to the birds in your yard. You can do this by purchasing individual types of seeds and mixing them yourself. Adjust the proportions when the seasons change or new birds arrive at your feeders.
Mix Up Expensive Seeds
If you cringe at filling feeders with the most expensive seeds, consider a diluted mix that incorporates some sunflower chips, white proso millet, or whole sunflower seeds. These mixes—whether made yourself or bought pre-mixed—are generally less expensive than single-seed bags, but are just as attractive to birds.
Buy in Bulk
Buying seeds in bulk can lead to much better per-pound prices than purchasing smaller bags, especially if you make your own mixes. If you won’t use the seed within a few weeks, it can easily be frozen or stored in airtight containers in cool spaces for longer periods.
Birdseed can be purchased at many places, from dedicated wild bird stores to garden centers, plant nurseries, pet stores, and large grocery retailers. Check competing prices regularly and watch for special sales where you can stock up for a great deal.
See also: How to Feed Birds During Winter
Offer More Than Birdseed
Looking beyond birdseed can help out a bird feeding budget, and will also attract a more diverse flock to the feeding station. Consider offering jelly or peanut butter to birds. You’ll be amazed at the woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even warblers who enjoy the treat. Cheap generic brands are perfectly fine to offer, but be sure they are not spoiled and have as few preservatives as possible. Offering suet, nectar, and nuts at your feeders can also bring in more birds—even on a limited budget.
Grow Your Own Bird Foods
It is easier than many birders realize to grow foods for birds, and food-producing plants can be a wise investment both for your landscape and your birds. Seed-bearing flowers such as sunflowers, zinnias, coneflowers, cosmos, and poppies are all attractive options that will feed many finches, sparrows, doves, and quail.
Similarly, nectar-rich flowers such as bleeding hearts, columbine, bee balm, cardinal flower, and trumpet vines are ideal for hummingbirds. Some finches and orioles will also nibble at the blooms.
You can even grow your own nuts with oak, hickory, hazelnut, beech, or pecan trees. Jays, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and some duck species will go nuts for them!
Even as you plant food-producing flowers, trees, and bushes in your yard, minimize the insecticides and pesticides you use. Birds thrive as they munch on the gnats, spiders, beetles, grubs, and other insects in your yard. Birds will be your natural pest control and you won’t need to spend money on unnecessary chemicals.
Refill Less Frequently
Finally, one of the best ways to feed birds on a budget is to simply refill your bird feeders less often. It is a common misconception that birds get most of their food from feeders. In fact, wild birds only get 10-25 percent of their daily diet from supplemental feeders. They Find the rest of their food by naturally foraging.
If your feeders are empty for a day or two, the birds will simply scavenge for spilled seed, search for more insects, or take advantage of nearby natural foods. This will help ensure all the seed and other foods you provide are fully eaten rather than going to waste. Your bird feeding budget will be better for it.