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Katharine Elliott loves her yard and her dogs, and spares no expense in providing them the best in care and nourishment. Between her two passions, she thought she had little time for anything else, until she was the recipient of a rather strange gift - a small bird feeder.

"What I initially thought was a re-gifting item peaked my curiosity once I received a small bag of mixed wild bird food," says Elliot. "It seemed suddenly easier to try it than to re-gift it, plus I wanted to be able to say I did use it. So I filled the little double-sided trough and set it on my deck."

Then something quite astonishing started to happen. Between phone calls, chores and duties, she realized she kept glancing at the little bird diner. A fascinating little creature dressed in what looked like a gray morning coat and spiked hair-do, was darting back and forth between the feeder and the deck railing. She later learned it was a Tufted Titmouse. "I know my life as a birder can be traced to that moment," says Elliott.

What ensued was a trial-and-error progression of wonderment. Mere looking turned to the need to identify, which led to a regular log of each new bird visiting her feeder. Some of these new visitors were messy eaters or just plain picky ones. A growing pile of what looked like small pieces of oatmeal, also called filler, seemed to be a major part of the seed mix that was regularly discarded. She soon realized that when it comes to filling her feeder - not all bird food is the same.

Like everything else we pursue, we do it within certain parameters - cost, ease, quality. Feeding birds is no different, particularly when it comes to quality. Only after time is logged observing, researching and/or a little trial-and-error, do we realize that what we put in our feeders is the primary reason we attract some birds and not others. The more premium the ingredients used, the greater variety of birds attracted.

It doesn't take long to borrow on the rich experience of the birding community to prove this point. According to the National Audubon Society, there are more than 51 million bird enthusiasts in the United States. One of the best sources of hands-on experience can be found in the pages of multiple birding blogs. A visit to many blogs reveals a host of feeding discussions with valuable conclusions relative to the type of seed best offered to wild birds.

One blog entry from flowercultivator.com states: If what you want to attract are (just) sparrows and pigeons, get the cheap stuff. If you want cardinals, grosbeaks, juncos, nuthatches, etc., get the more expensive blends. Look at the types of birds you want to attract.

The outdoor living experience for most of us is to optimally enhance our little piece of the world, be it through our lawns, gardens, pets, or wild birds. Elliott comments, "I love my yard, which developed through products that yield better and better results at the best price. Early on, when it came to generic lawn products, I learned that you get what you pay for. Just like we also want the best things for our pets, it is through premium products that we can achieve the most varied birding experiences with the least waste."

Elliott found The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, known for its premium lawn and garden products. "I was pleased to learn they specifically are building on their core lawn expertise to further enhance the total outdoor experience by recognizing the widespread phenomena of birding," she says.

Lisa Zierten, director of Scotts Wild Bird Food division, confirmed its commitment to birding as part of the company's overall mission. "We recognize the growing role of birding within the backyard experience for homeowners," said Zierten. "With that, we are committed to offering more than just bird food, but rather premium products that complement and contribute to the complete outdoor living environment."

Purchasing items from companies committed to products that benefit both lawns and the greater environment, as well as quality bird food products that don't clutter the lawn and garden with waste and seeds, is important to many people. Birding is about observing, and knowledgeable observation proves that all bird food is not created equal.

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