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Learning About Different Bird Seeds

Learning About Different Bird Seeds

There are many different types of birdseed, but which is best for your birds and feeders? Understanding the different options and which birds prefer them can help you choose just the right treats for your backyard buffet.

8 Top Birdseeds

There are several types of seeds you can choose to fill your feeders, but knowing which birds will enjoy which seeds, as well as which feeders are best for different foods, can help you choose the best single seed or seed blend to feed your backyard birds.

  1. Black Oil Sunflower Seed
    These medium-to-large seeds are solidly black and pointed at one end. They are high in fat and calories, ideal to give birds exceptional energy and good nutrition. Any birds with good, thick bills will be able to crack through the shells to extract the seed.

    Best For – All songbirds such as cardinals, buntings, jays, chickadees, nuthatches, etc.
    Use In – Hopper, tube or tray feeders with medium or large feeding ports or open feeding space

  2. Striped Sunflower Seed
    These larger, gray-and-white striped seeds are just as nutritious and healthy for birds as black oil sunflower seeds, but the larger, thicker shells can be difficult for small birds to crack. Many sunflowers from the garden produce striped seed.

    Best For – Larger songbirds with thick, strong bills such as cardinals, jays and grosbeaks
    Use In – Hopper, tube or tray feeders with larger feeding ports and open feeding space

  3. Sunflower Hearts and Chips
    Sunflower seeds with the shells already removed are ideal for many birds because they offer the energy and nutrition of sunflower seeds with no effort to crack the shells. These seeds are more expensive, but are a great choice for picky birders because spilled seeds will not sprout.

    Best For – Seed-loving songbirds of all sizes, including finches, sparrows, buntings, etc.
    Use In – Hopper, tray and tube feeders with medium feeding ports or open feeding space

  4. Millet
    These small, pinhead-sized seeds are round and lightweight, but they are a good source of carbohydrates for hungry birds. Both red and white varieties are available, and they often make up a good proportion of birdseed mixes.

    Best For – Smaller seed-eaters such as juncos, sparrows and finches, as well as doves
    Use In – Hopper or tube feeders with small or medium feeding ports, or protected trays

  5. Nyjer
    This thin, oil-rich seed is a high energy choice ideal for feeding winter birds, but it is very lightweight and can easily spill or blow away from the wrong feeder. This seed can be more expensive than other options, and fewer birds will sample it.

    Best For – Clinging finches such as goldfinches, redpolls and siskins
    Use In – Tubes with narrow feeding ports or mesh tubes or sock feeders

  6. Safflower
    This larger, thicker seed looks like a white sunflower seed, and it offers similar nutrition for birds. The seed taste is bitter and is a good choice to discourage squirrels from feeding, but the thick shell can be hard for small birds to open.

    Best For – Large seed-eating birds such as cardinals and grosbeaks
    Use In – Hopper, tube or tray feeders with medium or large feeding ports or open feeding space

  7. Milo
    This larger, round, BB-sized grain is often consider a junk seed, and many birds kick it out of feeders as they seek better morsels. It is still a good carbohydrate source and an inexpensive filler for birdseed blends, but seed left on the ground may sprout.

    Best For – Ground-feeding birds such as pigeons, doves, quail and pheasants
    Use In – Hopper or tray feeders that include spillover trays to minimize mess

  8. Cracked Corn
    One of the least expensive birdseed options, cracked corn is the dried, fractured kernels of corn and is a cheap filler for birdseed mixes. While it has less nutrition for birds it is a decent carbohydrate source, and it will not grow if spilled.

    Best For – Ground-feeding birds such as doves, pigeons, sparrows, quail and other game birds
    Use In – Open hopper or tray feeders or ground feeding areas to sate hearty appetites

With so many different seeds to choose from, it is best to offer a variety of different seeds to backyard birds. In time, you will learn which seeds are preferred by your most frequent guests, and you can create custom blends of their favorites to fill all your feeders.

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