Choosing Bird Seed

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With all the bird seed choices bird lovers have these days, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to buy to feed your birds. What it really comes down to is, what birds do you most want to attract? Some people love all the birds, some people only want to feed smaller birds, while others want to keep pigeons and starlings away. Here we’re providing a rundown of the different seeds availableand what birds are most attracted by them. Most people prefer to offer a blend of seeds to attract the greatest variety of birds. After you review the seeds separately, you’ll have a better idea of the seeds to look for in a mix or blend.

Black Oil Sunflower Seed
By far the most popular of all the bird seeds and the one seed accepted by all seed eating birds. Black oil seeds have a soft shell and are easy for birds such as chickadees and titmice to open. They also have a high oil content which provides calories and energy all year long. Black oil sunflower seeds are also available as whole “hearts” which are the seed meat with the shells removed, or “chips” which are small bits of hearts. If you want to offer only one seed, it should be black oil sunflower seed. Expect to attract chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, cardinals, finches and more.

Striped Sunflower Seed
Striped sunflower seeds are a large seed with black or gray stripes. They don’t have as high an oil content as black oil seeds and they’re harder for small birds to open. However, birds with beaks designed to eat big seeds, such as goldfinches, cardinals and grosbeaks enjoy the striped seeds as much as black oil sunflower seeds.

Nyjer Seed
Nyjer seed is often served alone in special feeders that hold these tiny seeds without allowing them to fall out. However, Nyjer can also be found in some mixes as well. Nyjer seeds are also a high-oil seed and are especially loved by finches such as goldfinches, redpolls, Pine Siskin, House and Purple Finches.

Safflower Seed
Sometimes offered alone to deter squirrels, safflower seed is particularly enjoyed by cardinals, but will also be eaten by grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, Mourning Doves and buntings.

Of the two types of millet found in bird seed mixes, red and white proso millet, the white proso is the most favored by birds. Millet is a small, round seed that especially attracts buntings, both painted and indigo, doves, juncos and sparrows.

Cracked Corn
Small pieces of corn are included in many mixes or can be purchased separately. The birds it’s most likely to attract are doves, sparrows, towhees, blackbirds, grackles and jays as well as larger birds such as turkeys, pheasants and quail.

Peanuts are high in oils and very nutritious for birds. They can be offered as bits, shelled or even whole peanuts. There are also special feeders that hold peanut halves and whole peanuts. Expect to attract jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and more.

Other seeds you may encounter in a bird seed mix are wheat, milo or canary seed. Canary seed is accepted by juncos and sparrows, but if you live in the eastern part of the country, the wheat and milo will probably go to waste. These seeds are grown primarily in the midwest and eastern birds aren’t used to them. In addition to seeds, many mixes include tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios, as well as fruit bits such as dried blueberries and cranberries. Experiment with different seeds and mixes and have fun feeding the birds! Shop bird seed at

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  • Barbara August 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    The premise of this article is “What it really comes down to is, what birds do you most want to attract?” So I wish it were organized by type of bird rather than by type of seed. You really have to dig through this article to assess which seed attracts which type of bird, but I’m still not absolutely clear what kind of seed to buy to attract small perching birds and keep the big bullying pigeons and doves out of the feeder.