Birds love this stuff and will clear out the feeder quickly, so you are not going to be left with remand seeds that can spoil. The high-quality seeds provide plenty of protein and vitamins
There are few bits of debris mixed in with the seed. The squirrels are fond of it too.
Black sunflower seeds are nutritional for most birds. High in oil content for energy. Easy to chew through the shells even for smaller birds like the chickadee. Budget-friendly option.
Isn't a lot of variety, may be recommended as an additive to other mixes.
The high-energy suet base leaves no waste or mess and is ready to feed. Designed for suet, fruit, and insect-eating birds, it can be used in a variety of feeders.
Some found their backyard birds took a while to adjust to it.
These seeds are packed with food that is both good for energy and helps songbirds maintain their pretty plumage. Comes with a good variety of seeds. Lasts a while.
May attract squirrels and other critters to your feeder.
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There’s more to feeding backyard birds than throwing out some seeds and hoping for the best. Depending on where you live and what kind of birds you are able to attract, you will need to select the right food for your local feathered friends.
Feeding wild birds can be a long-term commitment. Once you put out a feeder, it can take a while for birds to discover it. But when they do, birds will begin to look for food in your vicinity all the time, so be prepared to continue feeding throughout the year, and not just in winter when food is scarce. In fact, spring and summer (during nesting season) is even more important, when adults raise their broods. You don’t want them to waste valuable energy coming to your feeder to look for tasty treats if they aren’t there.
In return for your efforts and diligence, though, you’ll be treated to a fascinating array of wildlife right in your backyard, and enjoy seeing them delight at the cornucopia you have provided for them. Read on for how to select the right wild bird food, and see our top picks.
If you are successful at your bird feeding, you will need to replenish the feeders often — as much as once a day. Before you begin shopping for a wild bird food, here are some important considerations.
Buying in bulk will save you money if you think you will have many birds eating at your feeder(s). If you buy in bulk, it is well worth buying online for delivery rather than heaving bulky bags home from the store.
If you only have a small feeder and don’t need as much, don’t get so much seed that it spoils before use. One bag under 20 pounds at a time will suffice.
The following are important factors to know so that you buy the right kind of food:
Geographic location: Know what birds are native to your area, and also what species tend to migrate through it at certain times of year.
Climate: You may need different seeds in different seasons.
Bird species: No matter how much you want to attract certain birds, if they are not native to your area, no amount of seed will bring them there. Target the appropriate species with their preferred food.
This is the most common type of feed you will find at the grocery or garden supply store, and are often the cheapest. They usually contain millet, cracked corn, milo, wheat, and other grains, plus a few sunflower seeds. Because this is a smorgasbord for the birds, with a lot of “filler” grains, you may find more grackles, sparrows, and blackbirds at your feeder while the more desirable songbirds go elsewhere. You’ll also find this kind of seed creates quite a bit of waste and mess. Higher quality wild bird mixes will have a better mix of the more desirable seeds, however, so check the ingredients. Or, you may want to consider a few different feeders with specialized seeds.
White millet is for ground feeders like doves and quails, but will also attract blackbirds and sparrows, which makes it less popular as a feed because it can bring too many birds to your yard.
Nyjer (or nijer) seeds are imported seeds from Ethiopia. They are often called thistle seeds but are in fact an herb grown for its edible seed and oil. These are beloved by goldfinches and are fed in small wire feeders or pre-made thistle seed socks. They are heat treated or sterilized so that any remnants that fall on the ground won’t germinate.
These come as black oiled sunflower seeds or striped seeds, which have a thicker shell. Most birds love sunflower seeds, and it’s the number one choice for attracting a lot of birds. They are especially good for attracting cardinals, finches, and songbirds. The striped sunflowers are more expensive, but because they are a little tougher to eat, they tend to keep the sparrow count down. There are also sunflower hearts, or chips, which can be used in wire feeders. These have the additional advantage of not producing any debris in the way of hulls.
This will attract lots of birds, but has its problems. It’s the most likely to have pesticide residue, and it’s a big draw for other critters like deer, squirrels, or even bears. Never use corn that has been treated with fungicide. It will have a red dye indicating that it is toxic to wildlife, pets, and people.
Suet is essentially congealed beef fat, and purists prefer it in this form, although some suet for bird feeding has other ingredients like berries. This will attract chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches. It’s super high calorie for them, and a great treat – especially in winter. It comes in cakes, balls, bells, plugs, or nuggets to insert into suet feeders.
These small, hard seeds are not popular with blackbirds and starlings, which makes them useful for attracting other birds. They are also not beloved by squirrels – another plus.
These are a tasty treat for the birds and can be bought live, by the tub, and kept in the fridge until used. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can also get them in dried form, though the birds might need to be tempted with a few live ones before eating them, at least at first. Mealworms are a great food to attract chickadees and bluebirds.
Fed in the shell on a tray feeder, this will give you hours of entertainment watching jays, magpies, and even woodpeckers enjoying the haul. Shelled nuts can go in any feeder and can be used to fill out other seed. Don’t use salted or any kind of seasoned peanuts, and make sure nuts don’t spoil as they are more prone to rotting.
Sugar water is food for hummingbirds, and will also attract orioles. You may also attract bats to the feeders at night, which helps with insect control in your yard. You can buy it premade, but it’s easier to just make your own simple syrup with water and sugar. Do not use dyed nectar, as it is harmful to the birds. While they are attracted to the red color (a great choice for the feeder), nectar should be clear.
Feeders. These come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, and are somewhat specialized for certain birds, like small mesh feeders for finches or glass bulbs or tubes for hummingbirds, so the shape and type of feeder will dictate the kind of birds that feed there. You can buy feeders relatively inexpensively or go upscale with fanciful designs.
Feeder holders or hangers. You may also need to buy a shepherd’s hook to hang the feeder from, or chains to hang them from branches. You can also get brackets that attach to railings on balconies or decks. Make sure your feeder is placed in an area where birds won’t be exposed to predators or harsh weather.
Good quality mixed seed or individual seed such as black sunflower is about 80 cents a pound. Nyjer seeds are about $1.70 a pound. Mealworms are the higher end food at about $5 a pound.
For best results, choose food for the birds that you already see in your yard or neighborhood. You’ll attract them to your feeding station quickly. Once a few birds are there, word soon gets around, and you can begin to add other feeders with different seeds that will attract other species.
Put the feeder in a safe location and in a place where cats can’t get to them, preferably at eye level. Birds will also prefer not to be out in the open, or in a noisy place (i.e., away from playing kids or barking dogs). Make sure you are not luring them toward any other dangers, like traffic, or to an area where they may be considered a pest.
For an all around, quality seed mix, try Wagner's 62059 Greatest Variety Blend, which contains 40% sunflower seeds plus eleven other seed varieties. It’s versatile enough to be used in a variety of different feeders, and there’s very little waste. For a real high energy boost, birds will enjoy Wildlife Sciences High Energy Suet. The ten-pack of cakes offers great value and will attract finches, woodpeckers, cardinals and even hummingbirds and possibly the odd migratory visitor. And for a really natural, healthy treat, try Picky Neb Natural Dried Mealworms. They’re nice, fat, whole dried worms — not pieces — and the birds go crazy for them.
Q. Can’t I just feed the birds bread?
A. This is not a good nutritional food for birds. It can even lead to a condition called angel wing, which deforms the tip of the wings. Commercial bird food will have the appropriate vitamins and protein to be beneficial for the wildlife. Plus, feeding leftovers is a green light for rodents and other critters.
Q. How do I keep squirrels from feasting at my feeder?
A. There are several feeders on the market designed to keep squirrels out, which work on different principles with varying degrees of success. However, one design that spins around the squirrels or other critters so fast that they fall off and stagger away is not recommended, as it can harm them. For best success, position feeders away from trees, and feed the birds seed that squirrels are less fond of, like safflower or nyjer. Or, you can find seed that’s had hot pepper added — the birds can’t taste it, but the squirrels don’t like it. Alternatively, you could just become an equal opportunity feeder.
Q. How do I stop discarded seeds from sprouting into unsightly weeds?
A. Birds are very messy eaters, and it’s inevitable that some will end up overboard. You can try putting a tray or sheet below the feeder, which you can clear up regularly – this will also keep rodents at bay. Or, look for non-sprouting seed, or high quality seed which tends to get eaten even from the floor. And any sprouted sunflower seeds are usually welcome!