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Choosing a Seed to Feed

Wild Birds: Choosing a Seed to Feed

When choosing what products to fill up your backyard bird feeders with, it’s easy to grab a bag of mixed seeds and ingredients. While it’s super convenient to grab that already prepped bag, take a look at some of the specific seeds and ingredients that are included in the package. By learning about what’s inside, you have a better chance of knowing what birds need to survive and what type of foods they may be more attracted by.

Types of Wild Bird Seed

  • Black Oil Sunflower 

Black Oil Sunflower seeds attract a wide variety of different birds and are very popular. Just some of the birds they attract include Cardinals, Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers, Finches, and many, many more! They have light, easy to open shells that make them so appealing. These seeds are very high in both fat and oil content, giving wild birds energy and heat.

  • Striped Sunflower

Striped Sunflower seeds have a much thicker shell than Black Oil Sunflower seeds. This makes them better for larger birds with stronger, tougher beaks, and more challenging for small, weak beaked birds. They’re similar to other sunflower seeds in their higher levels of healthy fats and oils. This will attract Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and other big birds.

  • Safflower

Safflower seeds look like white sunflower seeds. They are ovular in shape, and have white, sturdy shells. It’s easier for birds with stronger beaks to enjoy these, such as Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Titmice. It has a bit of a bitter taste, naturally averting squirrels. 

  • Nyjer / Thistle

Nyjer seeds, also known as Thistle, are small, black, long seeds that originate from Africa. These are known to be Finch favorites, as well as other birds like Siskins, Redpolls, Doves, and Sparrows. Thistle is rich in oil and high in fat and protein, making it an all around nutritious seed. However, because these shelled seeds are so small it’s very easy for them to be blown away or fall out of feeders. So they require special bird feeders that help reduce waste and spillage. These would be tubes with smaller openings or mesh feeders. A plus side of these seeds is that squirrels don’t seem to like them, meaning less of a chance of any robberies!

  • Millet

Millet (also known as white proso millet) is a small, usually white or red seed enjoyed by smaller birds like Juncos, Sparrows, Buntings, Siskins, Finches, etc. These grains are high in starch, protein, fiber, fat, and vitamins and minerals including magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

  • Milo

Milo seeds are larger red or white seeds, though red seeds are more common. They’re used as fillers in seed mixes and can help satisfy birds with larger appetites, but don’t offer too much nutritional value aside from a bit of fiber and calcium. Milo seeds can even be hard to digest for some birds. Birds that will still eat these seeds (if not much else is available) are Grackles, Jays, Doves, etc.

Choosing a Mix

Mixes of wild bird seed will usually combine an assortment of the above mentioned seeds. Some will even include extra ingredients and birdie favorites like whole or cracked corn, mealworms, dried fruits, peanuts, other types of nuts, and suet. Asides from corn, which is used as more of a filler ingredient, each one of these extra additions can help satisfy the appetite of hungrier birds. They offer their own nutritional benefits of healthy fats, oils, proteins, vitamins, and minerals that give birds needed body heat and energy for faster flying and efficient metabolisms.

When choosing your blend of seeds, observe the product’s:

  • Ingredients - Make sure that the bag or container of seeds you are choosing has quality ingredients. This means that while there may be fillers in the bag like milo or corn, there should be a larger amount of healthy, nutritious seeds like sunflower or nyjer seeds. Also try to see if they contain food outside of just seeds. The extra addition of fruit, nuts, suet, and insects may attract more birds that aren’t too keen on just a diet of seeds. They’ll also provide your backyard visitors with a more well rounded diet of essential nutrients.
  • Quality - Check that the seeds or ingredients in the bag are actually fresh and do not have any mold, mildew, feces, dust, or any other unsafe, inedible, unwanted elements in the packaging.
  • Quantity - Just because you are purchasing a bigger supply or a bulk amount of bird food does not mean it is always the better choice. Bigger packages of bird food might use primarily fillers. So be sure that no matter what quantity you are purchasing, it has higher quality, healthy ingredients. Plan accordingly and purchase only the amount that you know you will use and not waste.

Because there are so many different bird seeds available, focus on choosing the products that primarily use the more nutritious ingredients mentioned. Also take note of which seeds attract the types of birds that you want visiting your yard more often, and choose an appropriate bird feeder, too!


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