Attracting wild birds to your garden is a great way to enjoy wildlife in urban areas. It is also highly beneficial for birdlife as urban and suburban development encroaches on their feeding grounds. It is especially helpful during the harsh winters when their food resources are low. With so many different types of bird seeds, brands, and mixes available, choosing the best bird seeds can leave you somewhat befuddled.
It is always good to do a bit of research on the best seeds for birds before splurging on a bulk stock that can last weeks or even months. Luckily, in this quick guide, we give you the 101 on the best bird seeds to attract birds.
What Are The Best Bird Seeds For Wild Birds?
There are several considerations to make if you want to get the most out of your bird feeders. This guide will help you choose the best bird seeds to draw a diverse range of birds to your garden. We also give you some great recommendations for quality bird seed products and offer useful tips and information for optimizing your garden feeding area.
But first, you might want to give some thought to the following:
- Region – Get to know the birdlife in your area if you are unfamiliar with the various species likely to occur there. Remember to take into account migratory species as well. Select your seeds based on the specific requirements of the birds that frequent your area.
- Problem species – You may notice that your bird feeder tends to get hounded by house sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, and other backyard bullies. These are common garden birds that can become problematic as they feed rather aggressively. They are typically widespread and abundant species that need not be subsidized. Some of these species are also invasive and should not be encouraged as they compete with indigenous species for resources.
A high prevalence of these prolific birds in your garden will deter the more timid and shy species. You are probably wondering how you can control what birds your feeders attract. It all boils down to your choices of bird seeds. By carefully selecting your assortment of seeds you will be able to manipulate the species composition of your garden visitors in a way that would benefit indigenous birds and the environment.
- Season – Your choice of seeds should be considerate of the caloric needs birds have during the different seasons. Birds typically require more calories during winter as opposed to the summer months. Also, pay attention to the seasonal movements of birds.
- Quality – Make sure to source high-quality bird seeds from reputable suppliers. Many pet food stores sell low-quality mixes that are loaded with fillers. These mixes may not meet the high nutritional requirements of most birds and much of it goes to waste.
Everything You Need To Know About The Bird Seeds:
1. Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds are always a good idea for birds. They have a high nutritional value and are enjoyed by most bird species. There are two types of sunflower seeds: Striped sunflower seeds and black-oil sunflower seeds.
Striped Sunflower Seeds
These are the same kind found in your trail mix. They have a lower essential fat content than black-oil sunflower seeds but are still a good source of energy.
- They are a good choice if you want to be selective about the birdlife you attract.
- Striped sunflower seeds are large and have tough shells.
- House sparrows, blackbirds, and house finches have a hard time cracking them open, allowing other birds to feed peacefully without being swarmed.
- Since they are consumed by humans too, these seeds are on the pricier side.
We recommend Schoen Farms striped sunflower seeds (link to Amazon).
Black-Oil Sunflower Seeds
Black-oil seeds are high in essential fats. Unlike the striped variety, these are cheap sunflower seeds for birds.
- These seeds are small in size and thin-shelled. This makes them suitable for smaller-beaked birds like finches.
- These are also cheaper, hence easy on the budget.
- Because they are edible to such a wide range of birds they tend to attract pesky house sparrows and blackbirds in the droves.
Check out Amazon’s bestseller Pennington Select black oil sunflower seed (link to Amazon).
Also known as sunflower kernels, these are hulled sunflower bird seeds i.e. their shells are removed. They are favored by most bird species since they are soft, small, and shelled, making it easier for smaller birds.
- You will have no shells to clean up and your bird feeding area will be a lot tidier.
- Sunflower seeds tend to leave quite a mess behind so hulled seeds are convenient for the birds as well as the enthusiasts.
- Shelled sunflower seeds for birds are considerably more expensive.
- They also tend to attract the hoards.
Have a look at these shelled no-waste sunflower seeds by Backyard Seeds & Suets (link to Amazon).
2. Safflower Seeds
Safflower seeds arguably the holy grail of bird seeds. They are harvested from the thistle-like Carthamus tinctorius. These seeds are highly nutritious, with a good balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and can add good value to your garden feeders.
- Due to their bitter taste, these seeds are not palatable to every species, so they are avoided by squirrels, blackbirds, grackles, and starlings. This helps reduce competition and maintains the species balance in your garden. Safflower seeds are still favored by many birds such as cardinals, chickadees, and finches.
- None. They’re awesome.
We recommend this value for money option by Shafer Seed (link to Amazon).
Nyjer seeds are the thin, black seeds of the African yellow daisy, Guizotia abyssinica. You may know them as thistle, although they not part of the thistle family. These tiny seeds are high in essential fats and protein.
- With nyjer seeds, all you need to know is this simple formula: tiny seeds = tiny beaks.
- These seeds are great for small birds like finches and buntings that have a hard time with larger seeds.
- Nyjer seeds are susceptible to spoiling. Always make sure they are fresh and pay attention to the expiry date. It might be a good idea to store them in an air-tight container.
Try out these Kaytee nyjer seeds (link to Amazon).
4. White Proso Millet
Millet is a small grain from the Panicum miliaceum cereal crop. They are exceptionally high in carbohydrates. You get different types of millet seeds for birds, including red, striped, and golden millet. The best type, however, is the white proso millet. This is a good birdseed type that is commonly included in seed mixes. But you can also buy it separately.
- It is inexpensive and can be bought in large quantities as it has a long shelf life.
- Millet is a favorite among ground birds such as quails and pheasants, so be sure to sprinkle some on the ground.
- It’s also popular among juncos, wrens, buntings, doves, cardinals, tanagers, and towhees.
- Millet is heavily consumed by house sparrows and other problem species.
We recommend the Shafer Seeds white proso millet (link to Amazon).
Corn is another good high carbohydrate option. You get two types of corn for birds: whole kernel corn or cracked corn.
Whole Kernel Corn
Whole Kernel Corn (see on Amazon) is limited to larger species such as crows and jays as the kernels are too large for smaller birds. It is a good inexpensive seed type that may also attract other interesting wildlife to your garden such as rabbits and opossums.
Cracked corn is basically chopped up kernels and can be consumed easily by most birds. Smaller birds that are unable to eat whole corn kernels have no trouble with cracked corn.
- Because cracked corn kernels are small and easily eaten, they tend to draw in flocks of house sparrows and starlings.
- They can also become easily contaminated by fungal agricultural toxins.
They do, however, also attract a variety of other species including magpies, ravens, and jays, so it might still be a good option to explore.
Try out Wagners cracked corn or Backyard Seeds whole kernel corn (link to Amazon).
6. Seed Mixes
It can be easy and convenient to buy bulk bags of seed blends but there are a few things to check before you reach for the mix. Read the ingredients carefully and make sure to get the best birdseed mix. There are a few things to avoid if you want to buy a quality mix. Many seed blends contain fillers such as rice, red millet, flax, rapeseed, wheat, oats, and milo. They add weight to the bag but are avoided by most birds and end up wasted.
The best wild bird seed mix we can recommend is Lyric Supreme wild bird mix (see on Amazon). If you are looking for the best bird seeds for songbirds try Wagners songbird (see on Amazon) supreme blend wild bird food.
Other than seeds, there are various other top bird food types you can offer your garden birds. Here are a few good non-seed options:
Peanuts are high in fats and proteins. You can buy them shelled or un-shelled. Bear in mind that the shelled peanuts will be limited to larger birds like crows, jays, and magpies. Whereas shelled peanuts are convenient for many kinds of birds.
- Shelled peanuts are susceptible to spoiling, so you would need to keep an eye out for any soggy, rotting, or moulding nuts which would warrant a thorough cleaning.
Have a look at Backyard Birds shelled peanut pickouts (link to Amazon).
Mealworms are the larvae of the mealworm beetle and they are highly nutritious protein-rich bird food for wild birds. They are relished by bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and many more. And don’t worry – you don’t have to breed them at home. You can buy good quality dried mealworms.
Check out Kaytees Mealworms (see on Amazon). Another good option is Katees seed and mealworm treat cake.
9. Dried Fruits
Fruit is a good source of natural sugars and fibre. Occasionally putting out some dried fruit is a good way to supplement your garden birds’ diets, and the fruit-feeders will love it. It is also a good way to attract some unique species to your garden. Birds that enjoy fruit include mockingbirds, woodpeckers, waxwings, bluebirds, and robins.
- They are a great substitute for fresh fruit which can get rather messy. With dried fruit, there is less to clean up or replace.
- They can be a bit pricey.
- They don’t have a long shelf life, so be sure to use them before expiry.
This Lyric Wild Bird Food fruit and nut mix (see on Amazon) is a good value for money option.
Suet is raw hardened fat and is enjoyed by chickadees, woodpeckers, warblers, wrens, nuthatches, and titmice.
- Suet is high in calories and therefore an excellent energy source for birds during the winter months.
- Suet cakes may melt in very high temperatures resulting in a stinky mess. It is best avoided during the summer in hot climates.
- They also tend to attract a lot of starlings.
This Wildlife Sciences Suet Cake 10 Pack (see on Amazon) is good value for money.
Other Useful Tips:
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of seeds, other bird foods, and bird preferences, here are some additional tips to optimize your bird feeding station:
- Having several bird feeders where you can combine or separate seed types according to species may be a good way to keep aggressive feeders and timid species apart. It is also good practice to separate species as best as you can as birds may also spread diseases to each other.
- Consider the types of birds when choosing your bird feeders and select ones that are most suitable. Make sure you have feeders for all the types of birds visiting your garden.
- Always be diligent in keeping feeding areas clean. Remove bird feeders regularly and sterilize them thoroughly. Look out for things like mould and fungus. Unsanitary feeders can lead to illnesses and diseases that your garden visitors can spread to other birds.
- Have clean, fresh water available at the feeding area and replace it regularly.
- You can also include a sugar-water solution as a dietary supplement. It is a simple mix of plain white sugar and water, and nectar feeders will appreciate this.
- Other good energy sources for birds are fruit jams and jellies. You can use any brand but try to choose products free from excessive preservatives. These are great supplements for orioles, woodpeckers, and robins.
- Occasionally you may also offer fresh fruit such as oranges, apples, and melons. This is a great treat to provide sugars, vitamins, and other nutrients. Slice them up or halve them, and don’t forget to remove old fruit scraps.
- If you are looking to get creative you can smear peanut butter onto pine cones, empty toilet roll holders, or even tree bark and roll in some birdseed mix.
Feeding wild birds is a wholesome and rewarding practice. Not only will your garden be teaming with birdlife, but you will also be playing a role in the welfare of birds of your region. Finding the right balance of bird food may take some experimentation as it is a trial and error process. But in time, you will learn what works best for your garden, and alter your variety accordingly. This guide will help you along your course. Take your time and enjoy the process!