Wild Birds Eat Which Bird Seed?
By Cheryl Steins
Habitats for birds are always shrinking and with it go some of their natural food sources. Luckily, in just about any supermarket you can find wild bird seed. But which kind should you buy? Do cardinals eat the same wild bird seed that nuthatches do? To help answer these questions and give you some idea of what to buy, here is a list of the more readily available seeds and the more common birds that eat them. Just remember that birds don’t read these lists and have learned to adapt. In some areas some of these birds may have learned to eat or not to eat some of the seeds on this list but for the most part, they will. Also, this list is by no means an exhaustive one for the species of birds that will eat any given seed.
Sunflower seed is available in 2 varieties: black oil and striped. The striped variety is meant for human consumption, has a harder shell which may be difficult for some birds to crack open and is generally not as nutritious for the birds. The black-oiled seeds are thinner and softer making them easier to crack open. They have a higher fat and calorie content than the striped ones. Be sure to get sunflower wild bird seed in the hull as hulled seeds will spoil faster which may harm the birds. If you must use the hulled variety, only offer what can be eaten in one or two days at a time.
Blue Jays, Cardinals, Chickadees, Finches, Goldfinches Grosbeaks, House Finches, Juncos, Nuthatches, Pine Siskin, Purple Finches, Redpolls, Titmice, Towhees, White-Throated Sparrows and Woodpeckers.
Safflower is slightly smaller than sunflower seeds and with a thicker shell. They are loved by Cardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Doves, Finches, Goldfinches, Grosbeaks, House Finches, Juncos, Pigeons, Purple Finches, Redpolls, Titmice and Towhees. Supposedly, squirrels, Grackles and Starlings don’t like safflower seed and should leave the feeders alone, but I have also seen lists that say Blue Jays and others don’t like it either. As I said previously, birds that are wild will adapt so try it out and see what it attracts.
Nyjer wild bird seed is enjoyed by Doves, Finches, House Finches, Pine Siskins, and Purple Finches, Redpolls, White – Throated Sparrows and especially Goldfinches. Do not confuse nyjer with thistle which is a completely different plant. Birds will choose Nyjer over thistle seed and it is more nutritious for them.
Millet wild bird seed is great for ground feeding – just scatter on the ground for finches, doves, sparrows and juncos (only what they can eat at one feeding). Use the White Proso Millet as opposed to the Red Millet which is not favored by most birds. Very inexpensive!
Wild bird seed “bargain” mixes have a lot of filler which will be wasted so try to buy the wild bird seed in individual packages. Have fun trying out different types of seed and see what birds you can attract!
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