Just like people, birds have their own favorite foods. When buying seed or food for your wild birds, remember that not all seed mixes are created equal. Bird seed blends that contain a large amount of cracked corn or milo are to be avoided -- this stuff is just filler and the birds will ultimately just push it to the ground while searching for the tasty morsels.
Another point to keep in mind is that locally-blended seed mixes are typically fresher than the big box store blends. Older mixes are more likely to have mold or a meal moth infestation. In the end, you get more for your money by buying seeds the birds will eat and fulfill their nutritional needs.
So, next time you go to stock up on feed, put these on your radar:
- Black oil sunflower seed is the most common choice to attract a variety of backyard birds to your yard. Most of the birdseed blends include some sunflower, either in its black shell or hulled kernels and chips. Sunflower seed is grown mostly in the northern plains of the Dakotas to the panhandle of Texas.
- Nyjer is the most popular seed for goldfinches. It is the only ingredient in bird seed mixes that is 100% imported -- most of nyjer seed is grown in India. The cost of transportation is a big part of the price of nyjer seed.
- Nutrasaff and safflower is a favorite of cardinals. Bonus: squirrels, starlings, and grackles won't eat it. Nutrasaff will also attract a wide variety of birds just like black oil sunflower seed.
- Peanuts have a high oil and fat content that converts easily to body heat. Peanuts can be added to a mix or fed separately in a feeder. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and blue jays love peanuts, either whole or shelled.
- Millet is a favorite seed of ground feeding birds like juncos, indigo buntings, sparrows, and doves. You may see other birds sorting through the mix in the feeder and kicking the millet to the ground. This is exactly what is meant to happen. Some people like to buy just millet and put it in a ground feeder.
- Suet is a cake form of food which offers a quick source of energy that is critical for their survival, especially in winter. Suet contains beef fat which helps birds keep warm. There are many different types of suet blends which contain bird-attractive ingredients such as insects, nuts, hot pepper (to keep the squirrels away), and more. Use suet to attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, bluebirds, and more!