While almost all bird seed may look pretty much the same to you, it doesn’t to the birds you’re feeding. Knowing what kinds of seeds different birds like can help you attract a variety of fine feathered friends to your feeders. Consider these popular seed types and the common backyard birds they attract:
Black sunflower seeds attract blue jays, goldfinches, woodpeckers, purple finches, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches. Striped sunflower seeds appeal to chickadees, doves, grosbeaks, northern cardinals, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers. Sunflower hearts (also known as “hulled sunflower” and “sunflower chips”) attract chickadees, common redpolls, juncos, doves, finches, goldfinches, grosbeaks, nuthatches, pine siskins, titmice and woodpeckers.
These lightweight, tiny seeds are a favorite of goldfinches. Put nyjer seeds in a hanging feeder with tiny holes so the small seeds won’t get blown away. Nyjer also attracts redpolls, juncos, doves, indigo bunting and pine siskin.
These white seeds are slightly smaller than black sunflower seeds. Because they are bitter, grackles, blue jays, starlings – and squirrels – don’t like them. However, they do attract doves, purple finches, chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers.
Good for scattering on the ground, white millet attracts ground feeders such as juncos, sparrows, indigo buntings, towhees and mourning doves.
Popular with ground feeders, cracked corn appeals to doves, crows, jays, sparrows, juncos and towhees. Avoid getting finely cracked corn as it’s vulnerable to rot and can quickly turn to mush.
When choosing a bird seed mix, pay attention to the ingredients list on the package. Bird seed is required by law to list ingredients in order of content. Some cheaper mixes have filler seeds such as wheat, red milo, red millet or “assorted grain products.” Most backyard birds won’t eat those, and your seed mix could end up wasted on the ground.