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Bird seed prices soar

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Nati Harnik/AP

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Gardeners who feed the birds have probably been wondering what's up with the price of bird seed this year? Prices soar, then retreat a bit, then climb higher. There are a couple of reasons.

Last fall, black-oil sunflower seed (the most popular kind) becamse quite expensive for bird feeders because it was actually being turned into oil. Due to the high prices of corn and soy-based oils, restaurants and snack-food manufacturers turned to lower-priced sunflower oil for their frying needs.

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The price has since declined, but it's still at the high end of its normal range.

But if you buy nyjer -- sometimes called thistle - seed to entice finches to your yard, you've really been suffering sticker shock. Its price has doubled and supply has shrunk.

It all started in India, where much of the nyjer seed used in America bird feed mixes originates. Excessive rains last January washed out a third to a half of the crop. Then nyjer suppliers in Ethopia -- the other big source -- decided to withhold their seed from the market to earn higher prices, according to The Associated Press.

It certainly worked. Retail price for a 50-pound bag soared to $80.  One expert says that's supposed to return to a more normal level, but probably not until homeowners typically stop feeding in midspring.

You can read more about it by clicking here for the AP article.

To learn which birds are attracted to which seeds -- and other foods, such as suet, fruit, and bread -- see this list at Wild Bird Watching.

(Note: We invite you to visit the Monitor's main gardening page, which offers articles, essays, and blogs on a wide variety of garden topics.)