As the flowers begin to bloom with spring approaching, your garden comes to life with the chirping sounds of beautiful, colorful birds. Did you know that keeping fresh water and some of the best bird seeds in the yard will instantly turn it into a bird haven? If you didn’t, then keep on reading to be surprised!
While it is the most popular type of food offered to these beautiful creatures, there are many bird seed types, and not all of them appeal to all types of birds. Novice birders may make the mistake of choosing bird seed types based on the birds they wish to attract instead of those already present in their yard.
Birds are social creatures and will therefore readily explore any area where there is feeding activity. When you choose bird seed types, base it on the birds already present in your area and the feeding activity will increase and other species will soon join in. After that, you can add new bird seed types and feeders.
Best Types of Bird Seeds
Different bird species prefer different bird seed types depending upon factors like nutritional needs and their bill shape. By understanding how to choose the best bird seeds, you can attract a myriad of bird species to your backyard.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
These are the most popular amongst the different varieties of sunflower seeds for birds. Sunflower seeds are often considered the best choice for beginning bird feeding activity in numerous bird feeder styles. Black oil sunflower seeds or “oilers” are named this because their kernels are rich in oil. This type of seed gives birds, especially winter birds the energy to stay active throughout the day.
Since they have thin shells, even the smaller seed-eating birds can easily crack them open and devour their contents. As compared to other sunflower seeds for birds, these are less expensive. These seeds are great for songbirds giving them more nutrition and calories in a single bite.
Black oil sunflower seeds can be fed whole. However, the discarded hulls can cause quite a mess beneath the bird feeders and can even destroy landscaping. This can be avoided by using hulled sunflower seeds, also known as chips or hearts.
Hulled sunflower seeds are essentially oilers that have the hull removed. These are also available as broken or semi-crushed seeds to feed smaller birds. Though more expensive, hulled seeds offer the convenience of less waste. However, they spoil easily without the shell and shouldn’t be left out for more than two days.
Sunflower seeds are very attractive to squirrels. This is a problem for those looking for bird seeds that squirrels won’t eat. This can be solved with squirrel baffles or specialized bird feeders.
Striped Sunflower Seeds
Just like black oil sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seeds for birds are also a high-fat, high-oil option. However, their hulls are tougher, making it difficult for smaller birds or those with weaker bills to feed on.
In a bird seed mix, these seeds are often the last to be eaten since birds prefer a more convenient and easier food option. They can be offered in the same way as black oil sunflower seeds, in hopper bird feeders. Hopper bird feeders are wide-mouthed tubes, broad mesh feeders, or open dishes and trays.
However, to keep the squirrels at bay, it is recommended to use a platform bird feeder. Like other sunflower seeds for birds, these can also be sprinkled on the ground for ground-feeding birds.
They are preferred by larger bird species such as Cardinals, Grackles, Jays, and Woodpeckers.
Safflower bird seeds are large and oval-shaped, bearing a striking resemblance to white sunflower seeds because of their tapered shape. Though relatively less common and expensive, these seeds are slowly growing in popularity among birders as one of the best bird seeds. They have high nutritional value and many species of birds are attracted to them.
Endowed with hard shells, safflower bird seeds mainly attract birds with sturdy bills. They are rich sources of protein, fiber, and fat and have a bitter taste. Squirrels and raccoons avoid this seed because of its bitter taste, making it one of the best bird seeds.
Many birds that prefer safflower bird seeds are larger species that require perching space, so they are best offered in hoppers, tubes, or platform bird feeders. Since these look and taste different from other bird seeds, birds usually take some time getting used to this type.
Therefore, mixing it with black oil sunflower seeds is a good way to get birds to try this new yet nutritious seed. The proportion of the two seeds can later be adjusted once birds adapt to the new taste.
Safflower bird seeds are the favorites of Cardinals, Doves, and Titmice. Other songbirds, Woodpeckers, and Nuthatches also like these seeds.
Nyjer or Thistle Seeds
These African-origin seeds are small, dark, elongated, and are incredibly lightweight. Nyjer seeds are rich in oil, fat, and protein because of this composition, it is ideal for winter bird feeding. The high protein content in Nyjer seeds also makes it the best bird seed for species that regenerate their feathers after molting in late fall or early spring.
This seed is usually imported and sterilized under high heat to prevent the introduction of invasive plants or weeds into the environment. This is the reason why thistle seed is one of the most expensive bird seeds out there. Buying it in bulk and storing it in a cool, dry place is more cost-effective than purchasing small quantities.
Nyjer seeds are best offered in bird feeders with small openings so that it is not spilled or blown away. Metal or nylon mesh feeders or tubes with narrow openings are ideal for offering Thistle seed to backyard birds.
Nyjer seeds are a favorite amongst many smaller birds, including Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and Juncos, who will eat nothing but Nyjer if it is readily available. Some larger Finches and Quails will also devour the fallen seeds beneath the bird feeders.
Shelled and Cracked Corn
Shelled and cracked corn are inexpensive bird seeds that are readily available in most wild bird stores, garden centers, and agricultural feed stores. They are both a great source of oil and starch.
Another benefit of using shelled and cracked corn is that it offers a cleaner backyard bird feeding experience. It doesn’t sprout and is dry enough to be stored for more extended periods of time without getting spoilt.
Since corn is rich in carbohydrates, it can be used to feed larger birds with big appetites so they keep away from the more expensive bird seeds. It is often used as a filler in bird seed mixes but can also be used just as it is. Cracked kernels that have been dried and broken into smaller pieces are easier for birds to eat.
Most of the birds that eat cracked corn are ground-feeders, so it’s best to sprinkle this bird seed directly on the ground in an easily visible area such as open areas of dirt or gravel, along a deck or patio, or in short grass. Cracked corn can also be sprinkled under low bushes and shrubs to attract more secretive bird species.
For those birders who prefer to offer cracked corn in feeders, open-tray bird feeders or platforms can be used so that there is less waste left by birds.
Corn is also preferred by other backyard wildlife such as squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and deer. Hence, corn is the best bird seed to offer in separate wildlife feeders to keep them distracted from bird feeders.
This healthy, inexpensive treat is the favorite of larger game birds such as Quails, Ducks, Mallards, Wild Turkey, Red Junglefowl, Rock Pigeons, and Ring-necked Pheasants. Other birds like House Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Jays also like cracked corn.
These small, starchy grains are popular among birds and birders alike and are pretty inexpensive. Though available in red also, white proso millet seed is the most popular millet bird seed type. It is one of the best bird seeds in terms of nutritional content, as it is rich in protein, fiber, fat, starch, calcium, and vitamin B.
Since this grass seed is smaller than a grain of rice, it is favored by smaller birds and can be fed in all different types of bird feeders. Platform feeders can be used to feed larger flocks of birds. While, ground-feeding birds perfer low dishes close to the ground.
It can also be offered through a hopper or mixed seed tube, but it isn’t small enough for birds to feed on it through mesh feeders or the smaller bird feeders made for Nyjer seeds. Millet attracts a wide range of seed-loving birds, including both large and small species.
Birds that eat millet include Buntings, Doves, Quail, Sparrows, Wrens, Juncos, Cardinals, House Finches, and Pheasants. Other birds will always sample millet, especially if offered as a part of a suet block or bird seed mix.
Milo or Sorghum
Milo or sorghum is often used as a filler in bird seed mixes because of its poor nutritional value. However, it does offer some fiber, calcium, and iron and is one of the best bird seeds for larger birds.
Available in both red and white, milo is less expensive compared to other bird seeds because it is bulky and large. For making cheap bird seed mixtures, forty to fifty percent of sorghum can be added.
Most small birds will often discard milo as it is difficult to digest and not rich in nutritional value. Larger bird species and bird feeder pests like squirrels, mice, raccoons, and rats. This is why the more expensive and nutritious seeds are reserved for other birds.
It is best to put this seed directly on the ground or in low bird feeders with ample space so that larger birds can easily access them. Since this seed is avoided by smaller birds, offering excess milo can attract pests, create an unpleasant smell, or cause mildew.
To minimize waste, birders often limit the amount of milo and avoid placing these seeds in hanging bird feeders or hoppers. Birds that readily accept sorghum in their diet include game birds like Quails, Pheasants, Wild Turkeys, large Doves, Western Jays, and ground-feeding birds like Grackles, Cowbirds, and European Starlings.
Rapeseed and Canary Seed
These two bird seed types are not very popular, as they’ve got a high-fat content. They’re some of the best bird seeds to be used in mixes and provide a tasty little surprise for the birds that eat them.
These can be used in hopper or mesh bird feeders so that the birds don’t over consume these seeds. Rapeseed is a favorite amongst Doves, Finches, Quails, and Juncos. Whereas canary seeds are preferred by House Sparrows, Cowbirds, and Canaries.
Just like there are many species of birds, there is a wide range of bird seeds. However, sunflower seeds are a well-rounded choice for most birds, as they’re easy to crack open and provide a high nutritional value.
Like corn and milo, certain bird seed types are often used as fillers in bird seed mixes or to satiate larger birds’ healthy appetites. When choosing the right type of bird seed for the backyard, they should be selected.
You can set goals to bird-watch after you have placed your best bird seeds in your backyard and record your results.