Best Types of Bird Seed Here's What Birds Want to Eat

When it comes to what types of bird seed there are and which is the favorite of birds, you'll find plenty.

While one type may attract many birds, not all birds will eat the same seed.

It depends on the bird and its bill size as to what it eats.

How do you decide on which is the best bird seed?

The list below will help you understand what is available and what birds will be attracted to the various varieties.

Prefered Bird Seed Type

Great Mix Without What They Don't Want

Looking closely, you'll see there is some overlapping of several birds liking the same type of food.

Knowing what individual species like will take the guesswork out of what you want to offer in your bird feeders.

Think about the species you want to visit your backyard, then, by using the seed chart at the bottom of this page, you'll be able find the seed that best suits that species.

Below I'll discuss the most common types you see on store shelves. This will offer you a place to start.

By the way, don't forget to try something new. You may find birds in your backyard you never knew were there!

What's the Very Best Bird Seed for Wild Birds

Black-oil Sunflower Bird Seed

Black-Oil Sunflower Seed - Considered the #1 best sunflower seed to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds here's why.

Rich in oil, black oil sunflower seeds give birds the energy they need to live. The thin shell makes it an easy bird seed to open, even for the smaller birds.

Offer this type of food in Hopper Style Feeder or Squirrel Proof Tube Type bird feeder.

You'll attract Cardinals, Nuthatches, finches, and a variety of others.

If you are going to offer only one type, give black oil sunflower seed a try. Keep in mind, not all birds will choose sunflower seed.

hulled sunflower seed

Hulled Sunflower Seed - This type is the same as above except that the shell has been removed. Because it is more expensive, Offer it in a squirrel proof type feeder.

The nice thing about offering sunflower hearts and chips is that there is no mess since all of the food is edible.

Sometimes black oil sunflower seed left on the ground prevents some plants from growing.

If this is a concern in the area you are feeding birds, try using hulled seed instead. You'll attract the same birds without the mess.

safflower seed

Safflower is a favorite seed of the Northern Cardinal. House Finches and Mourning Doves will also feed on this type.

The nice thing is that most squirrels will leave it alone and you can place it on a platform/hopper feeder.

Cardinals can more easily feed from tray/platform feeders rather than ones with small perches.

nyjer seed for finch birds

Nyjer - Thistle Seed Thistle, or more accurately, Nyjer seed, is a finch favorite.

A specialty food loved by Goldfinches, Purple Finches and even Mourning Doves.

This tiny black seed from India and Africa is available at most places that offer wild bird food.

Long used in Canary mixes, its now common as a wild bird food source.

Goldfinches are attracted more to the nyjer than any of the others on the list.

Each year we present both kinds to attract as many birds as possible. Pine Siskins also like nyjer seed.

And yes, even as tiny as this seed is it still has a shell (hull) that will pile up on the ground.

Fortunately, the seeds will not sprout because it's sterilized before entering the U.S.

A special feeder with small ports will be needed when offering this seed. For a variety of these types of feeders see: Thistle Feeder

bird seed stripped sunflower seed

Striped Sunflower - While most birds prefer black oil sunflower to striped sunflower seed, it still remains a less expensive alternative.

Try placing some on a platform feeder to prevent squirrels and raccoons from raiding your regular feeders. Place it away from your bird feeders.

The shell is harder than black oil sunflower seed, making it more difficult for small birds to open.

Still, you'll get plenty of Bluejays, Cardinals, and many Woodpeckers offering striped sunflower seed.

whole corn for game birds

Cracked or Whole Kernel Corn - will attract Eastern Bluebirds, Jays, Pheasants, and many types of game birds.

By offering cracked corn throughout the year, you'll be able to watch birds that normally don't visit your other feeders.

Available at feed supply and birdwatching aisles of most stores.

It is best to place cracked corn on platform feeders or scatter some on the ground for game birds.

Be aware that mammals will also be visiting. These include raccoons, opossums, and rodents.

What is the Best Wild Bird Seed Mixes?

premium bird seed mix

Premium Mixes - These are packages of a mixture of bird seeds that are attractive to a variety of birds.

Generally consisting of black oil sunflower, peanut, millet, striped sunflower, and others mixed in the same bag.

Personally, I prefer to offer each separately. Less desirable birds may drive the more desirable birds away.

You'll waste money on most wild bird seed mixes since the birds will toss out any seed they don't like.

Still, if you only have one feeder, then splurge and get the best wild seed mixes you can. The one above is a good place to start.

Cheap Wild Bird Seed Mixes

While not labeled as such, cheap bird seed mixes rarely attract the most desirable birds.

Generally consisting of red and white milo, cracked corn, wheat, striped sunflower and other seeds.

Any desirable birds that feed on these types of bird seed will readily come to eat at any of the other's you offer.

Most of the birds will toss or kick this type of seed out. You'll see them picking or kicking it out of the feeder.

Most of the cheaper bird seed mixes are derivatives of the poultry industry. And as such, not suited for bird-watching enthusiasts.

By offering a higher quality bird seed, you'll get the birds your neighbors are not getting because they offer cheap mixes. Which, by the way, ends up on the ground offering no real savings.

Offering Suet in Winter Will Bring the Birds

suet for nuthatches and woodpeckers

Suet - While not a bird seed, so many birds are attracted to suet that I'll add it to this article.

The base of suet is made from beef fat. Most stores that offer seed also offer suet.

You'll find a wide variety of suet types. Suet will be mixed with birdseed, berries, peanut butter, and a variety of other things birds like.

Some of the birds that enjoy suet are: Black Capped Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthaches, and Wrens.

Offer suet in a suet feeder. Check out the link to see what they look like.

Want to Know a Secret About Offering Suet? Here's mine

Here's my little secret when it comes to purchasing Suet. To get the most birds, purchase the darkest color offered.

Usually, the ones with the most peanuts will draw the most birds, and the darker varieties have more.

Once you decide which birds you want to attract, you'll find the Bird Seed Types here.

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CHART FOR FEEDING BIRDS

Bird Feeding Chart Provided by Dad's Woodshed LLC (used with permission)

Type of Bird

Food Preference

Blue Jays Sunflower seed, safflower, cracked corn, peanuts, suet, bread, peanut butter, lard mixes, seed mixes
House Finch Mixed seed, peanuts, fruit, suet, nyjer, sunflower, safflower,
Goldfinch nyger, sunflower seed, hulled sunflower, millet, fruit, suet, peanuts
House Wren Suet, bread crumbs
House Sparrow Mixed seed, sunflower seeds
Wrens Suet, suet mix, peanut butter, bread, apples
Indigo Bunting Peanuts, millet, variety of seeds
Northern Flicker Suet, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, fruit, meat, bread
Oriole Oranges, apples, grape jelly, oriole jelly, sugar water, soft raisins
Painted Bunting Sunflower seeds, seed mixes
Pine Grosbeak Sunflower seeds, grain
Pine Siskin Nuts, rolled oats, nyjer, mixed seeds, sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, millet, suet
Purple Finch Sunflower seeds, nyjer
Red Crossbills Sunflower seeds, nyjer
Red Poll Suet, bread, sunflower seeds
Red Winged Blackbird Bread, cracked corn, mixed seeds, sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, millet, suet
Robins, Bluebirds, Thrushes Apples, sunflower seed, bread, grapes, suet, mealworms, berries, raisins, nut meal, seed mixes
Rose Breasted Grosbeaks Sunflower seeds, grapes, orange halves
American Gold Finch Sunflower seeds, nyjer
Black Billed Magpie Meat, bread
Bobwhite Quail Sunflower seeds, seed mixes
Brown Headed Cowbird Bread, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, seed mixes
Bushtit Bread, sunflower seeds, bird seed mixes
Cardinals Cracked corn, nuts, sunflower seeds, safflower, millet, peanuts, apple, bread
Black Capped Chickadees Sunflower seeds, peanuts, bread, suet
Crows Bread, scraps, corn, suet
Magpies Scraps, suet, peanuts, bread
Downy Woodpeckers Sunflower seeds, corn, cornbread, peanut butter, suet, shelled peanuts, sunflower seeds
Grosbeaks Sunflower seeds, safflower, apple, fruit, suet, millet, bread, peanut kernels
Buntings Sunflower seeds, safflower, apple, fruit, suet, millet, bread, peanut kernels
Grackles Sunflower seeds, bread, scraps
Titmouse Sunflower seeds, suet, bread, safflower, peanuts, peanut kernel
Chickadees Peanut kernel, sunflower seeds, suet, bread, safflower
Nuthatches Suet, suet mix, sunflower seeds, nuts, cracked corn, bread
Creepers Suet, suet mix, sunflower seeds, nuts, cracked corn, bread
Mockingbirds Halved apples, fruit, bread, suet, sunflower seeds, nuts
Thrashers Halved apples, fruit, bread, suet, sunflower seeds, nuts
Flycatchers, Phoebes Bees, wasps, ants, mealworms
Kinglets Suet, bread
Waxwings Berries, raisins, sliced apple, canned peas, currants, grapes
Warblers Suet, suet mix, water, fruit, breads, sugar water, nut pieces
Tanagers Suet, fruit, sugar water, mealworms, bread
Song Sparrows Sunflower seeds, seed mixes, bread, nyjer, millet
Starlings Bread, scraps, suet
Stellers Jays Nuts, scraps, suet
Tree Sparrows Wild bird seed mixes, millet
Sparrows Millet, peanut kernels, suet, bread, canary seed, sunflower seed
White Breasted Nuthatches Peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet, safflower
Hairy Woodpeckers Sunflower seeds, nuts, cheese, apples, bananas, suet, peanut butter
Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers Nutmeats, suet, fruit
Quail Cracked corn, millet, berries
Pigeons Cracked corn, sunflower seeds, milo, bread, nyjer, nuts
Doves Cracked corn, sunflower seeds, milo, bread, nyjer, nuts
Roadrunners Meat scraps, suet
Hummingbirds Plant nectars, small insects, sugar water, instant nectars
Woodpeckers Insects, fruit, sunflower seeds, suet, nuts, sugar water
Western Tanagers, Scarlet Tanagers Orange halves, grapes
Juncos Millet, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanuts, bread, nut meats, nyjer, suet
Towhees Millet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, grapes, cracked corn, suet
Rufhouse Sided Towhee Bird seed mixes, thistle, sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn
Baltimore Oriole Suet, orange halves
Brown Thrashers Orange halves, cracked corn
Carolina Wrens Suet, sunflower chips
Cat Birds Raisins, grapes, orange halves, suet
Mourning Dove Millet, nyjer, sunflower chips, safflower, cracked corn
Pileated Woodpeckers Suet
Red Bellied Woodpeckers Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, orange halves, safflower, cracked corn

Try to set out several varieties and be sure to include a source of water.

Whether or not you feed birds, the most important thing you can do is provide water all year and especially in winter.

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