An Introduction to Bird Food

Selecting wild bird food can be a difficult task. There are dozens of different types, flavors and mixtures and each one attracts different birds. Here is a short description of each type of bird food, what birds they attract and the advantages of getting them.

black oil sunflower seeds
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are the most universally eaten bird seed. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, most birds find sunflower seeds particularly attractive, meaning that they are more likely to feed at a location that offers them. These seeds have been known to attract cardinals, house finches and blue jays among others. There are different varieties of sunflower seeds, such as black oil sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seeds and hulled sunflower seeds. The black oil sunflower seed is the most preferred.

Safflower Seeds

These seeds resemble white sunflower seeds and are typically more expensive. The safflower seed attracts doves, cardinals, song birds and big-billed birds. One of the added benefits of the safflower seed is that it tends to be an easy way to keep squirrels away, as they normally avoid feeders with safflower seeds.

millet
Millet

Corn

Corn is an inexpensive bird food that is high in oil and starch. Larger ground birds, such as ducks, turkeys and grackles, tend to be attracted to whole corn, while quails, doves and sparrows prefer cracked corn.

Millet

This is a small, round grass seed that typically comes in mixed food because of its high starch content. Millet is popular with smaller foraging birds, such as sparrows, juncos and buntings, and works well in feeders or scattered on the ground.

Milo

The milo comes in red or white and is considered filler food that doesn't benefit birds nutritionally. It's the least expensive of the seeds, but also the least liked. Some birds, like doves and pheasants, will eat milo, but most birds avoid it.

nyger seeds
Nyger Seeds

Nyger

Nyger seed, also known as thistle seed, is a small black fruit that has grown in popularity as bird food. Nyger is preferred among small birds like finches, juncos, siskins and quail and is commonly used in tube feeders.

Mixed Bird Seed

Mixed bird seed is sold at stores, but many experts do not recommend commercial mixes because of how much filler food is in it. You can actually make your own mixtures, by mixing a variety of the previously mentioned types of wild bird food.

Nectar

Nectar is composed of water with sugar and can only be consumed in hummingbird feeders. You can make or buy nectar from stores and it's great way to attract a variety of hummingbirds.

suet cake
Suet Cake

Suet

Suet is raw beef or mutton fat that usually comes in processed cakes that also contain other ingredients. Suet is particularly favored by jays, bluebirds, woodpeckers, wrens and starlings.

Miscellaneous Food

While the previously named foods are the most popular commercially sold types, birds will also eat other foods, such as oyster and egg shells, peanuts, fruit seeds, raisins, grapes and other items.

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