Guide To Buying Bird Seed

Guide To Buying Bird Seed

If you’re trying to set up your first bird feeder, it’s important to select the right bird seed. There are many types of seed that you will encounter when you’re buying bird seed. Here is a guide to seeds, what feeders to put them in, and what birds are most attracted to them.

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Black Oil Sunflower

This is the most popular seed at feeders. It is a small, all-black sunflower seed that has a high-fat content and a thin shell that is easy for the birds to open. It should be the start of any feeding station.

How to offer: It is best offered in hanging tubular feeders and hopper feeders.

Birds who like it: It attracts a lot of species of birds, including chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, and jays.

Striped Sunflower

This is a larger type of sunflower seed with a lower fat content and a harder shell. It is black with white longitudinal stripes. It is harder for birds to open and not favored by birds as much as black oil sunflower seed.

How to offer: It is best offered in hanging tubular feeders and hopper feeders.

Birds who like it: It attracts the same birds as black oil sunflower seed—chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, and jays.

Hulled Sunflower Seed (no shells!)

This is sunflower seeds without the hulls. The beauty of sunflower seeds without the hulls is twofold. For birds, there is the benefit that none of their precious energy reserves during the cold winter months is wasted opening the shells. For humans, there is no mess of shells accumulating under the feeders that eventually will have to be raked up and disposed of. Since the shells of sunflower seeds contain a component that is toxic to grass and will kill any grass that is growing around or beneath the feeders, this is an important factor for many people in choosing whether to offer sunflower seeds in or out of the shell. Hulled sunflower seeds is a component of Mike’s Little Waste and Mike’s No Waste mixed seed bags.

How to offer: This is best offered in a tubular hanging feeder or a hopper feeder.

Birds who like it: This attracts a greater variety of birds than sunflower with the hulls on because birds that normally could not crack open the shell can eat it. These include woodpeckers, mockingbirds, wrens, and woodpeckers along with chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, and jays.

Thistle Seed / Nyjer Seed

This is a very tiny black seed. It does not come from our native thistle plants, but is imported from Ethiopia and India.

How to offer: Since this seed is so tiny it must be offered in special feeders that have small seed portals so that it does not all spill out. These are usually plastic tubular feeders, wooden feeders with fine wire mesh, or just plain wire mesh feeders.

Birds who like it: This is one of the favorite seeds of goldfinches. Other related birds who like it are House Finches, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and redpolls.

Millet

Millet is a small round seed about the size of the head of a pin. There are several different types. White proso millet is light colored and the most popular with birds. Red and golden millet are somewhat less liked by birds and less often available in stores. Millet is often a major component of seed mixes.

How to offer: Millet can be placed in a variety of feeders, such as hanging tubular feeders, hopper feeders, and tray feeders. It can also be just sprinkled on the ground.

Birds who like it: Millet is liked by doves, sparrows and juncos, cardinals, bobwhites, quail, and buntings.

Safflower

This is a large seed with a white coating. It is often used as a substitute for black oil sunflower in cases where people are trying to discourage grackles, Starlings, and House Sparrows, as they don’t seem to like it as much.

How to offer: It is best offered in hanging tubular feeders and hopper feeders; it can also be sprinkled on the ground or tray feeders.

Birds who like it: It attracts many of the same birds as black oil sunflower seed, but not quite as readily. The birds include chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, grosbeaks, and jays. Cardinals are particularly fond of this seed.

Cracked Corn

This is dried corn kernels that have been cracked into smaller pieces. It is sometimes available by itself but is more often found in seed mixes. It is generally less expensive than some other seeds.

How to offer: Cracked corn is best offered in seed mixes in hopper feeders, tray feeders, or scattered on the ground.

Birds who like it: A wide variety of birds that like to feed on the ground come to cracked corn. These include pheasants, quail, doves, sparrows, towhees, blackbirds, grackles, and jays.

Nuts

Increasingly more nuts are being offered in seed mixes. These include mostly peanuts and peanut hearts, a little central portion of the peanut. They are usually in seed mixes, but sometimes sold separately.

How to offer: Seed mixes with nuts can be offered in hopper feeders, on trays, or scattered on the ground.

Birds who like it: Most birds that eat hulled sunflower seeds eat nuts. These include woodpeckers, mockingbirds, woodpeckers along with chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, and jays.