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Feeding finches through Winter

These notes are for the area i live in which is classed as a subtropical climate and obviously things that grow here may not grow at the same time in other colder or warmer areas, but try it anyway.

Winter is the worst time for finches as they are very tender at this time of the year so you must give them as much time and effort as possible to maintain their health and well being.

Seeding grasses and freshly grown seed has enormous nutritional value. This is the one thing that all aviaculturists try to duplicate with all sorts of soft food mixes and vitamins, but nothing is as good as the real thing. You can’t overfeed green seeding grasses and this is one of the hardest things to do especially as the collection gets larger.

Picture of Veldt Grass

Panic Veldt Grass (Ehrharta erecta)

The problem is that seeding grasses are in short supply at the moment but there are some varieties still available. On a recent visit to a local beach I observed red brow finches feeding on velt grass seed heads just behind the dune area. This is a flat growing grass that seems to prefer shady areas and if the seed heads are gathered they are a very good source of nutrition for the birds.

Winter grass is starting to set seed as well as the velt oats. Chickweed is one of the best of all green feeds for birds and is usually abundant in most gardens from now on for the next few months.

The red and yellow siskins and most other birds in the holding cages have enjoyed the seed heads of the basil plants, late in the season when the basil goes to seed the long heads are fed before they dry off, the seed is plump and light yellow in colour.

Seedling trays approaching germination

Seedling Trays of Red Panicum etc, ready for planting out in Spring

Winter is not a good time to plant so ideally preparation should have started in May, but if you are growing food for your birds some of the seeds can be sown now and will be ready in the early spring these include canary, phalaris, rape, niger, rye and oats. Most of the millets are warm weather crops but you can get an early start if the seed is sown in seed trays and transplanted out later. Red pannicum will grow here most of the year as will jap millet, white french millet will germinate in another month. Corn can also be grown in trays if sown in August it can be transplanted out for an early start.

The small wild sunflowers that grow profusely in Western NSW on the roadsides can be sown now. These will start to flower in spring and continue all the way through to Autumn. If picked when the petals start to fall and fed to the birds, yellow and red siskins will almost live and breed exclusively on these. Any excess can be picked and frozen to feed through the winter.

The freezing and storing of seed heads can be practised all year. Any gardener will tell you of the feasts and famines so don’t be reluctant to freeze any excess of seed heads in November and feed out in January for example, it is the next best thing. No need to thaw them out, just feed them. The use of the freezer provides a great source of seeding heads at any time of the year, not only the winter.

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