The Right Seeds
Choosing the Right Bird Seed to Attract Wild Birds
By Scott R Turner
There are many different types of bird seed and other bird foods that you may want to consider when trying to attract birds to your yard. The bird food you choose will determine which birds visit your feeder, so choosing the right type of bird food is important. The variety of bird food available may seem overwhelming at first, but there are really only a few types of bird seed you need to know about to get started.
Black-Oil Sunflower Seed Black-oil sunflower seed is the most popular bird seed, and is recommend for attracting the widest variety of birds to your feeder. When you open a bag of quality black-oil sunflower seed, you’ll know why! This seed smells wonderful. In addition, black-oil sunflower seeds have a thinner shell than most other seeds, which makes it easier for birds to access the food inside. Black-oil sunflower seeds are larger than many other types of sunflower seeds, including striped or white sunflower seeds, which makes them even more popular with birds. Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, and sparrows all love black-oil sunflower seed. If you are new to bird feeding, black-oil sunflower seeds are the best place to start!
Thistle or Nyjer Seed Nyjer seed, also referred to as thistle seed, is a high quality, expensive seed that is generally cultivated in Asia and Africa. This seed is expensive, but it is highly valued among bird enthusiasts because no other seed attracts finches like Nyjer seed. Goldfinches are especially attracted to Nyjer seed. These birds have a beautiful gold color and they are a pleasure to watch. Nyjer seed requires a special bird feeder with smaller holes, otherwise the seed will simply fall out. An economical way to feed Nyjer seed is to purchase a Nyjer or thistle sock. These socks have small holes in them that birds can pull Nyjer seed through.
Mixed Seed Seed mixes are also extremely popular with bird enthusiasts. Because different seeds attract different types of birds, a quality seed mix can attract a variety of birds. However, using a seed mix is not always preferable. Many birds will pick through your seeds, discarding what they don’t want. This can cost you a lot of money and create a huge mess below your feeder. While seed mixes can be an effective way to feed several different birds, I generally don’t recommend them unless you purchase a “no-mess” seed mix. “No-mess” seed mixes have been dehulled, which means that only edible parts of the seed remain. This ensures that any mess below your feeder will be quickly cleaned up by ground feeding birds of other scavengers like squirrels. Another advantage to seed mixes is that they are very economical. While some seeds, like black-oil sunflower seed and Nyjer seed, may be very expensive, a seed mix will generally mix these quality seeds with less expensive seeds like cracked corn.
Suet Suet is a healthy source of protein for birds, especially in the winter months. When food is scarce, suet may be a lifeline for the birds in your yard. Suet consists of animal fat, and is generally mixed with some seeds. Real suet is a difficult substance to deal with, as it may melt in high temperatures or spoil quickly. Suet-like cakes and plugs are also commonly sold, and birds seem to enjoy these as well. Suet is generally fed through suet cages. Some people also feed suet plugs that they stuff into a suet plug feeder. These simple feeders are generally small logs with hollow holes for the suet plugs. Blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, and many other birds enjoy suet.
Nectar Only a few birds enjoy nectar, which is essentially sugar water. Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are a pleasure to watch in your backyard. Orioles also enjoy nectar, although they prefer a different type of nectar, so make sure you buy oriole nectar if you are feeding orioles. You need to be careful when feeding nectar, as it spoils rapidly, and spoiled nectar may hurt the birds you enjoy watching outside.
There are many other types of food that you can feed birds. Many birds enjoy peanuts, cracked corn, millet, and oranges. Simply putting out some old bread crumbs may attract birds to your yard. Whatever you decide to feed, remember to slow down and enjoy yourself. Watching birds is a wonderful pastime that reduces stress, and helps people connect to nature and their families. Happy bird watching!
Scott R. Turner is an avid bird watcher and owns Birding Depot, an online store for bird feeders and other products for wild birds and the people who love them.
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