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10. Filling your tube feeder with mixed seed.

If you do this, all the seed will run out onto the ground, making the sparrows, pigeons, and blackbirds very happy. Solution: Use sunflower seed instead.

9. Ground feeding in the same place all winter.

If you scatter seed on the ground all winter in one place, you will create a stinky, messy, unhealthy zone that will be hard to clean up in the spring. Solution: Change feeding spots several times, especially during wet weather.

8. Ignoring feeder hygiene.

Yes, it's cold outside, but dirty feeders can still make birds sick. Solution: Wash your feeders at least monthly in a light (9:1) bleach-water solution. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

7. Buying your seed at the grocery store.

OK, some stores do sell good seed mixes, but most just sell cheap mixes. And there's a reason this seed is so cheap. Solution: Read the label. The ingredients should be sunflower, millet, and cracked corn. If wheat, milo, barley, and other seeds are listed as main ingredients, get your seed elsewhere.

6. Feeding last year's leftover seed.

Seed, like any other food, ages. Moths and weevils eat the seed. If your old seed is full of cobwebs, it's been invaded by flour moths and is no good. Solution: Throw it out and get new seed.

5. No feeder variety.

Ground feeding is fine, but many birds prefer to use hanging or raised feeders. If you're feeding on the ground and are wondering where the chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers are, try this: Solution: Use hanging feeders (hopper style, or tube or satellite feeders) and limit the ground feeding; you'll soon get some other, smaller songbirds to visit your feeders.

4. Believing that no thistle seed means no goldfinches.

This is not true. Sure, goldfinches, siskins, and other finches love thistle (or niger) seed. But it's an expensive seed to offer exclusively. Solution: All these species will come readily to feeders that stock only black-oil sunflower seed. Augment this with thistle if you wish.

3. Feeding birds lots of stale bread.

The birds may seem to love your stale bread, but bread to a hungry bird is like popcorn is to a hungry human:

Lots of filler, but no real nutritional value. Bread also attracts mostly starlings and house sparrows.

Solution: Offer apples, oranges, meat scraps, rendered suet, mealworms, or other nutritional foods instead.

2. Trying to baffle squirrels.

Losing the squirrel wars? Solution: Offer dried corn, either cracked or still on the ear, elsewhere in your yard, away from your bird feeders. You might distract the squirrels for an entire day. And you might learn to love them!

1. Taking down your feeder so the birds will migrate.

It is simply not true that your feeders keep birds from migrating. (By the way, hummingbirds don't migrate on the backs of geese, either.) Birds that migrate know when to leave. Your feeders, no matter how nice and well-stocked they are, will not delay a migrant sparrow, finch, or grosbeak for even one second.

Solution: Feed birds all year long if you like doing so. And don't worry, be happy!

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