Top 10 Foods for Winter Bird Feeding

Winter: ’tis the season for feeding birds all across North America, especially in those regions where it gets mighty cold and snowy. If you are a veteran bird feeder, you’ve probably gained lots of insight into the foods your backyard birds prefer. Perhaps you’ve learned through trial and error, or perhaps you did your homework and read up on the subject.

If you are just getting started in bird feeding, or if you are frustrated by a lack of success in attracting winter birds to your feeders, the first thing you need to determine is whether you are feeding the right foods. If you are not giving the birds what they want, you might not have many birds.

The following 10 foods are extremely popular with backyard birds all across North America.

If your favorite bird food is not on this list, please let me know. After all, I am not omniscient. I’m just a guy living in Ohio who likes to feed birds.

10. Black-oil sunflower seed. This seed is the hamburger of the bird world. Almost any bird that will visit a bird feeder will eat black-oil sunflower. Birds that can’t crack the seeds themselves will scour the ground under the feeders, picking up bits and pieces. Bird feeding in North America took a major leap forward when black-oil sunflower became widely available in the early 1980s. Why do birds prefer it? The outer shell of a black-oil sunflower seed is thinner and easier to crack. The kernel inside the shell is larger than the kernel inside a white-or gray-striped sunflower seed, so birds get more food per seed from black-oil. This last fact also makes black-oil a better value for you, the seed buyer. Striped sunflower is still fine (evening grosbeaks may even prefer it slightly), but black-oil is better.

9. Peanuts. Peanuts—de-shelled, dry-roasted, and unsalted—are a fairly recent trend in bird feeding, at least in North America. In Europe, feeding peanuts has been popular for a long time. Peanut manufacturers and processors have now identified the bird-feeding market as a good place to get rid of the peanuts that are broken or otherwise unfit for human consumption. Ask your feed/seed retailer about peanut bits or rejects. Several major feeder manufacturers now produce sturdy, efficient tube-shaped peanut feeders. Woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and titmice will readily visit a feeder for this high-protein, high-energy food. Even cardinals and finches will eat peanuts.

8. Suet. Most humans don’t want a lot of fat in their diet, but for birds in winter, fat is an excellent source of energy. Ask at your grocery store butcher counter if you don’t see packages of suet on display. No suet feeder? No problem—just use an old mesh onion bag. If you want to get fancy with your suet, you can render it. That is, melt it down to liquid, remove the unmeltable bits, and then allow it to harden; this is best accomplished in a microwave oven. Rendered suet lasts longer in hot weather, and while it’s melted, you can add other ingredients to it (see “bird treats,” #1, below).

7. Good mixed seed. Is there such a thing as BAD mixed seed? You bet! Bad mixed seed has lots of filler in it—junk seeds that most birds won’t eat. Bad mixed seed can include dyed seed meant for pet birds, wheat, and some forms of red milo that only birds in the Desert Southwest seem to eat. Good mixed seed has a large amount of sunflower seed, cracked corn, white proso millet, and perhaps some peanut hearts. The really cheap bags of mixed seed sold at grocery stores can contain the least useful seeds. Smart feeder operators buy mixed seed from a specialty bird store or a hardware/feed store operation. You can even buy the ingredients separately and create your own specialty mix.

6. Nyjer/thistle seed. Although it can be expensive, Nyjer, or thistle, seed is eagerly consumed by all the small finches—goldfinches, house, purple, and Cassin’s finches, pine siskins, and redpolls. You need to feed thistle in a thistle feeder of some kind—the two most commonly used types of thistle feeder are a tube feeder with small thistle-seed-sized holes, and a thistle sock. A thistle sock is a sock-shaped, fine-mesh, synthetic bag that is filled with thistle seed. Small finches can cling to this bag and pull seeds out through the bag’s mesh. Two potential problems with thistle: it can go rancid or moldy quickly in wet weather and uneaten seeds can germinate in your yard, creating a patch of thistle (Guizotia abyssinica) plants that you may not want. Fortunately, this problem does not seem to be widespread. All thistle seed is imported to North America, and it is all supposed to be sterilized prior to entry into the United States and Canada.

5. Safflower. This white, thin-shelled, conical seed is eaten by many birds and has the reputation for being the favorite food of the northern cardinal. Some feeder operators claim that safflower seed is not as readily eaten by squirrels and blackbirds (caveat: your results may vary). Feed safflower in any feeder that can accommodate sunflower seed. Avoid feeding safflower on the ground in wet weather; it can quickly become soggy and inedible. You can buy safflower in bulk at seed and feed stores.

4. Cracked corn. Sparrows, blackbirds, jays, doves, quail, and squirrels are just a few of the creatures you can expect at your feeders if you feed cracked corn. Depending on where you live you may also get turkeys, deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Fed in moderation, cracked corn will attract almost any feeder species. Some feeder operators only use this food to lure the squirrels away from the bird feeders. Squirrels love corn—cracked or otherwise—best of all. Whole corn that is still on the cob is not a good bird food because the kernels are too big and hard for most small birds to digest. Cracked corn is broken up into smaller, more manageable bits.

3. Mealworms. We fed mealworms to a pair of nesting bluebirds all this past summer. They rewarded us with four healthy broods of young bluebirds. Eighteen fledglings in one summer should land our bluebirds in the Guinness Book of World Records. Most feeder birds, except goldfinches, will eat mealworms if you offer them. Mealworms are available in bait stores, or by mail order. Don’t worry, they aren’t slimy and gross. In fact, they aren’t even worms; they are larval stage of a beetle (Tenebrio molitor), if that makes you feel better. We keep 1,000 mealworms in a tub of old-fashioned rolled oats and feed them to the birds in a shallow ceramic dish. The dish has slippery sides so the worms can’t crawl out.

2. Fruit. Humans are supposed to eat at least three servings of fruit every day. Fruit is also an important dietary element for birds, but it can be hard to find in many areas in midwinter. Set out grapes, slices of citrus fruits, apple or banana slices, and even melon rinds, and watch your birds chow down. If you want to feed raisins, chop them up and soak them in warm water first to soften them up a bit. Offering fruit to tanagers and orioles is a traditional spring and summer feeding strategy, but many winter feeder birds will eat fruit, too.

1. Homemade bird treats. You can come up with your own recipes for winter bird treats. Smear peanut butter on a tree trunk, and poke some peanut bits into it. Melt suet in your microwave, and pour it into an ice-cube tray to harden. Before it solidifies, add peanut bits, raisins, apple bits, or other bird foods. Put the tray in your freezer to harden. Once it does, you’ve got cubed bird treats—easy to make and easy to use!

by Bill Thompson, III | Editor, Bird Watcher’s Digest

Hiring Maintenance Business Developer in the South Bay

Cleary and Bay Area Property Services

The Cleary Team at BAPS

We are looking for another Sales Representative for our Landscape Maintenance Division in the South San Francisco Bay Area.

Click here for an online application

The target income for this position is $100k+.
Cleary Bros. Landscape, Inc., a leading contractor in the Landscape Construction industry, is currently seeking to add another skilled Maintenance Sales Representative. Cleary Bros. has been is business 30 years and has 225 employees.

You will be taking over an area that already has tremendous momentum, a large data base, and hundreds of previous bids to re-visit with people that already know us.

Position Purpose: 
Generate new landscape maintenance service contract sales for Cleary Bros. Landscape, Inc. (CBL). Our work includes landscape services of commercial real estate types . . .Office, Large Corporate Sites, Retail, Resort, Home Owners Associations, and related landscaped sites. The ideal candidate must be a self starter that possesses a passion for success, and a proven sales record in the San Francisco Bay Area. The regional territory for this position is the East Bay. Representative must have the ability to meet the assigned annual contract sales goals. 

Job Title: Maintenance Sales Representative 
Department: Maintenance 
Reports To: Division Manager 

The qualified candidate will possess effective personal leadership, inter-personal skills, time management, and recognize needs of the customer, and successfully sell landscape maintenance contracts with integration to (CBL) operations. The position requires the candidate to exercise leadership within a team-based environment. Also, effective sales process, interpersonal skills, prospecting and follow-through with prospects, co-workers and clients. Other skills required of the position include organizational, computer (Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point and Outlook), and mentoring. 
[Read more…]

Healthy Habits – A little prevention goes a long way for Cleary Bros.

Todd Kirchner is an arborist for Cleary Bros., a 220-employee California company with landscape maintenance, construction, and tree care divisions. He diagnoses disease and pest issues for the trees in his care and prescribes treatment. Sometimes he recommends a change in cultural practices, like watering, mulching or root protection. Sometimes he just recommends letting nature do its work. But sometimes a tree needs more help getting healthy.

pear-tree-fire-blight pear-tree-treated-results

Pear tree with a severe fire blight infection (photo taken June 2015). The tree was pruned summer of 2015.

The tree was then treated with Arbor-OTC early spring of 2016 with good results (photo taken April 2016).


In those cases, Kirchner has a suite of products ready to go. NutriRoot, Arbor-OTC, IMA-jet 10, PHOSPHO-jet are all trusted pieces of his toolkit.

Arbor-OTC is a micro-injectable systemic antibiotic for the treatment of bacterial infections of trees and palms. Kirchner uses it primarily for fireblight control in pear trees. He says it’s best used preventatively rather than therapeutically. He will treat trees in the springtime and prune whatever is already damaged in the summer to remove the damage.

Kirchner uses IMA-Jet 10 to control sucking insects. He prefers it because he’s seen no sign of breakthrough — when the product’s active ingredient begins to drop in effectiveness, leading to an insect resurgence. IMA-jet 10 stays at a consistent level throughout the entire growing season.

“It has very good staying power,” Kirchner says.

NutriRoot has been a key component of Kirchner’s summertime watering program. Drought-stressed trees receive supplemental water, and NutriRoot’s surfactant been particularly important to thirsty trees in less-than-ideal soil.

“In the bay area, you have high clay compacted soil — it’s like concrete,” Kirchner says. “Nothing is getting in. With the soil surfactant, it’s able to break into the soil, allow water to penetrate and hold in the soil for longer. We saw really good results with that last summer, conservatively we kept about 300 trees alive through last year using that product on all our projects.”

PHOSPHO-Jet is Kirchner’s preferred fungicide for leaf and twig and stem diseases like sycamore anthracnose or pear black leaf spot. Even with an effective product, it’s necessary to set up a protection plan.

“You have to have the end game in mind before the project even starts,” Kirchner says. “You have to know what you want to accomplish or what needs to happen before you even begin to write a proposal or specify a treatment program.”

For instance, preemptive PHOSPHO-Jet treatment for leaf spot in the fall can prevent a lot of remedial work in the spring. Kirchner is always looking ahead. If you know a certain time of year tends to have perfect weather conditions for a fungus to develop, don’t wait. Get those trees in that affected area protected ahead of time.

“If you can save yourself from having to be a firefighter, you can put out problems before they become problems and make the client happier,” Kirchner says. “You look better and the trees look better which adds value to the property.”

Over the years, Kirchner has developed solid relationships with the people at Arborjet. From sales managers to technical support staff to the CEO, he has been pleased with his experience.

If he’s stumped about a particular tree problem, he comes to them with questions. The Arborjet team has been a useful resource, Kirchner says, and he doesn’t mind leaning on them as such.

“They have really good quality products, and they’re always coming out with something new,” he says. “But you’re not just buying a product, you’re buying into a relationship as well, with someone who wants to help you do good in your business.”

Article posted in Nursery Management Magazine, Aug. 2016

Cleary Mulch


In an effort to keep unnecessary materials from filling our landfills, we at Cleary Brothers recycle our green waste and tree chips.We blend them together at a rate of three green waste to two wood chips from local tree work in a tub grinder.Once blended together we run it through a second time and offer it to our customers as a mulch that is great for the outer areas of your property, around tree wells and even in planter beds.As the organic material breaks down, it feeds the plant material while aiding in weed suppression and moisture retention.Our product is all natural and contains no dyes. Contact us for samples or more information.


As Rains Begin, Officials Warn of Flash Flood Danger

<a href=""> CNRFC Interactive Map </a>

Changes to the California landscape from drought and fire have made the state more vulnerable to flash floods in the upcoming rainy season, according to officials from the California Department of Water Resources, CAL FIRE and the National Weather Service. In a statment released today, the officials advise the public to prepare for possible floods.

Wildfires exacerbated by the past five years of drought have left extensive burn scars in many parts of the state, as shown on this interactive map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s California Nevada River Forecast Center. Rainfall that would normally soak into the soil will run off of burned soil, increasing the danger of flash floods.

“With an increased number of burn areas comes increased potential for flash flooding in those areas,” said Bill Croyle, Deputy Director of Statewide Emergency Preparedness and Security for DWR. “Flood preparedness is even more important this year due to widespread wildfires the state has experienced.”

Submitted by Teresa McGaffic on Mon, 10/24/2016

DWR and NWS provide extensive flood safety information on their websites.


California Flooding After Fire video