pgivs
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Bird Feeder question, and ants.

Hi!

I'm a new gardener, started off with a very small native garden.

I have one bird feeder filled with wild bird seed mix on one edge of the garden bed. The birds seem to like it, but (obviously) the hulls and seeds they don't like are falling down below. Is this something I should be cleaning up? Is it harmful in any way other than looking dirty?

Other question seems to be that ants are down there eating the seeds, does the attraction of ants pose any risk to the lovely perennials?

Thanks for your help, glad to be here!
:P

Edit: Guess this should have gone in the critters forum, woops!

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Kisal
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The ground under the feeder should be carefully raked at least once a week. Feces collects there, and can spread disease, especially among any ground-feeding birds that might stop by. Also, the feeder should be thoroughly cleaned every time you refill it.

I wouldn't be concerned about the ants. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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rainbowgardener
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I find that the wild bird seed mix has a lot of stuff in it that the birds don't like, creating a lot of waste. I only feed thistle seed and black oiler sunflower seed. That is enough to attract a wide range of birds and leaves a lot less waste behind.
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Kisal
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I agree. I put thistle seed and black oil sunflower seed in the hanging feeders. Quite a lot ends up on the ground, but the ground-feeding birds and the squirrels clean it up quite well.

I toss red millet mixed with a little white millet around on the ground, because I have a mixed flock of sparrows that I like to have around. The flock is made up mostly of gold-crowned and white-crowned sparrows, along with a couple of other species ... and of course, a few house sparrows. I was surprised that there weren't more house sparrows. There are only about a dozen house sparrows in the entire flock, which is quite large. They all really love red millet, though. Lazuli buntings seem to like millet, too, as do juncos. I especially love to see the Lazuli buntings! :D

I toss some cracked corn on the ground along under the hedge for the Rufous-sided towhees.

Ants are drawn to the seed on the ground, and flickers come to eat the ants. There's always a lot of activity out there.

I think the birds come just as much for the water, though. I must be the only person who offers water, because when the temperatures are below freezing, my birdbaths are very busy places, just as they are during the heat of the summer. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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Sage Hermit
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feels the love you have for the birds, Kisal

Thanks for the info about raking.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

pgivs
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Thanks for your help!

It turns out that most of the mess on the ground is milo, so I'm shaking my fist at bird feed-mix companies for selling me something in my region birds won't eat.

Making the switch to black sunflower seed, and just for some finch feeders for thistle.

Any other suggestions for newbie bird/garden guy?

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rainbowgardener
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be sure you have a bird bath located in a spot where there is brush/ cover near by!
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Fogell
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your perennials will be fine, and the presence of ants is not a major concern. Your birds will feast upon the ant population and the whole mess will sort itself out.

estorms
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Will thistles grow from the thistle seed? If they do they are very hard to get rid of.

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rainbowgardener
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Nope, the bird seed sold as "thistle seed" isn't actually from thistles at all.

from wiki:

Guizotia abyssinica is an erect, stout, branched annual herb, grown for its edible oil and seed. Its cultivation originated in the Ethiopian highlands, and has spread to other parts of Ethiopia. Common names include: noog/nug (Ethio-Semitic ኑግ nūg); niger, nyger, nyjer, or niger seed; ramtil or ramtilla; inga seed; and blackseed.

The seed, technically a fruit called an achene, is often sold as birdseed as it is a favourite of finches, especially the Goldfinch and the Greenfinch. In the birdseed market, Nyjer is often sold or referred to as thistle seed. This is a misnomer resulting from early marketing of the seed as "thistle" to take advantage of the finches' preference for thistle.
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Dillbert
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>>not really thistle

now that's interesting! our local farm store has their own blended mix(es) - which I've found contains stuff our local bird population consumes with nadda waste. I reckon they know what they're doing....

I do have separate feeders for black sunflower and flat feeders for the safflower to keep our cardinals happy.

used to do a finch aka thistle feeder - but the finches seem quite happy to dine at the "all purpose" feeder.

I'm gonna ask our local types what it is they stock as "thistle seed" . . .

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