When it comes to types of wild bird seed, you'll find plenty. How do you decide on which is the best bird seed? The list below will help you understand what is availble and what birds will be attracted to the various varieties.
You'll notice that there is some overlaping of seed to birds. Knowing what individual species like will take the guess work out of what you want to offer in your bird feeders.
Think about the species you want visiting 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 discuss the most common types you see on the 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!
Black-Oil Sunflower Seed - Considered the #1 choice to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds to your feeders.
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.
If you are going to offer only one type, give black oil sunflower seed a try.
The nice thing about offering sunflower hearts and chips is that there is no mess, since all of the bird seed will be eaten.
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 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 - 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 in order to attact 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 the seed is 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
Striped Sunflower - While most birds prefer black oil sunflower to striped sunflower seed, it still remains a cheaper 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, Bluejays, Cardinals, and some Woodpeckers will make use of striped sunflower.
Cracked or Whole Kernel Corn - will attract Eastern Bluebirds, Jays, Pheasants, and other 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 scattered on the ground for game birds.
Be aware that mammals will also be visiting. These include raccoons, opossums and rodents.
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 together.
Personally, I prefer to offer each separately. Less desirable birds may drive the more desirable birds away.
Cheap Mixes - While they won't be labled as such, cheap 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 types you place in your yard.
Most of the birds will toss or kick this type of seed out. You'll see them picking it out or in a tray feeder they just scratch it out with their feet.
Most of the cheaper mixes are derivatives of the poultry industry. And as such, are not suited for bird watching enthusiast.
By offering a higher quaility seed, you'll get the birds your neighbors are not getting because they offer the cheap mixes. Which usually ends up on the ground. No savings that way.
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 bird seed, 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.
Once you decide which birds you want to attract, you'll find the Bird Seed here.
Bird Feeding Chart Provided by Dad's Woodshed LLC (used with permission)
Type of Bird
|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|
|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|
|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.