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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 04, 2011

From: Belton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Native Bird Feeding in Belton, TX
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We recently bought a bird feeder and a huge bucket of non-native bird seed (I'm not sure if the whole seed mix is non-native, but I believe most of the mix is). The birds go through the whole bird feeder in about 3 days. It seems like such a waste to be feeding the birds non-native seeds, so I try to put some native seeds from our garden in it. Is there anybody that sells native seeds that are not expensive by the bucket loads? The birds love the feeder and I was also wondering if there was a mix of native seed that will attract a lot of birds all year round?

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants sympathizes with you, our bird feeder gets cleaned out about as fast.  It looks like you have a pretty common question, but unfortunately, it also looks like the answer is “no”.

Here is a similar question from Arizona and another one is from California.  Closer to home, here is how the Native Plant Society of Texas handled it.  So, it looks like, at least for the bird feeder, about all that is out there is using the commercially cheap products.  You could probably sort out some better products that use more seeds that are Native or close to it [I’m thinking the sunflower seeds, which the birds love!] but that's about it.

What we all recommend though, is that you review lists of native plants for the ones your birds love – and use that as a guide to planting around your house!  That way, you get the birds to hang around and the birds get a good meal of native seed.  The bird-feeding society recommends native plants, and this Wildflower Center article on Wildlife Gardening has a number of references for good plant mixes.   You should compare those to the recommended species list for plants appropriate to the Belton area for the best results.  For a little less work in choosing, our suppliers sometimes sell mixes for bird feeding.  For instance, Native American Seed sells a mix called Hummers & Singers.   

As you noted, these are expensive by the bucket load, but then the packet sized for planting is pretty workable.

 

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