There are so many different types of seeds that you need to consider using if you’re interested in feeding the birds that visit your backyard.
Fortunately, one type of seed excels when compared to the other types of available: the black oil sunflower seed.
Sunflower seeds are one of the most popular seeds to use is your backyard bird feeder to attract all sorts of birds from your area, but they’re not the only one.
Apart from sunflower, here are some of the other types of seeds you’ll want to consider using:
- Thistle (Nyjer)
- White prose millet
- Canary seed
Apart from these seeds there are some food goods you should consider using as well.
- Corn (shelled or cracked)
- Apple slices
- Milo (sorghum)
- Flax seed
- Millet (gold or red)
It’s always a good idea to use a mix of different seeds and food items rather than just depending on using sunflower seeds all the time.
Using a variety of different mixes will help to attract a wider range of birds and you’ll have a better chance of seeing some of the more rare backyard birds as well.
Keep in mind that many birds don’t really like certain types of millet, oats or other unusual fillers that are sometimes added to commercial seed mixes that you could just pick up at your local pet store.
The problem with these mixtures is that birds don’t like some of the seeds or other food items and will simply sort through the mixture looking for something that they’re interested in eating.
This results in a lot of wasted edible goods and you’ll have to clean the area surrounding your bird feeder much more often if you’re using a mixture that the birds in your neighborhood don’t like.
Feeding Birds: The Different Types of Seeds
Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular seeds and other food items to use when it comes to feeding birds that are visiting your backyard.
Sunflower seeds are one of the most popular and well liked seeds that you can use in your backyard bird feeder.
There are two different types of sunflower seeds:
- Black oil
The black oil sunflower seeds are the most common and can be easily enjoyed by birds of all types.
The shells are very thin and they’re easy to crack open for any bird that is interested in eating seeds.
Additionally, the kernels on the inside have a high amount of fat in them, which is great for birds that stick close by during the winter.
The other type, striped sunflower seeds, are much thicker and they’re harder to open for smaller species, like the common sparrow and blackbirds.
These are good to use if you notice that there are a lot of these birds visiting your feeder and scaring away cardinals, blue jays, finches or other lovely species that you would like to see more of.
Apart from coming with the shell attached you can also pick up the sunflower seeds that have already been shelled.
These are great if you don’t want to deal with cleaning up any shells after the birds have eaten the interior contents and it actually makes it easier for the birds to enjoy them.
The problem with the shelled sunflowers is that they cost a lot more and backyard rodents, like squirrels, mice and chipmunks, really love these as well.
Another drawback to the shelled ones is that they are more susceptible to the elements and will go bad a lot quicker.
If your backyard feeder is visited quite often throughout the day and you’re refilling the seeds on a regular basis then you could definitely get away with using the shelled ones.
You also want to make sure that there aren’t too many squirrels around or that you’re using a squirrel proof bird feeder to avoid having the squirrels eat everything.
Otherwise, I recommend using the plain black oil sunflower seeds in your backyard feeder.
You can use these in a wide range of different feeders, trays, hoppers, window feeders and most other bird feeders that will accept regular seeds.
If you want to attract more cardinals to your backyard and help prevent more of the common backyard birds, like doves or sparrows, from swarming your feeder then it’s a good idea to use safflower seeds.
These have a thicker shell, which is harder for smaller birds to open up, and but they’re good to use if you want to attract more of the larger songbirds to your yard.
Squirrels also don’t enjoy safflower too much so they’re also good to use if you have a problem with squirrels eating all of the seeds that you leave out.
I would recommend using safflower with a hopper or tray feeder, as cardinals, grosbeaks and other lovely birds prefer to use this type of feeder so hopefully you’ll be able to see more of them using this combination.
If you want to see more the smaller birds in your backyard, like finches or sparrows, then it would be a good idea to use thistle, or nyjer, seeds.
You might have heard of thistle seeds being used before, but the thistle plant actually became a big problem across Canada and the United States so the suppliers of bird seeds started using nyjer instead.
They’re similar in that both types of seeds are small, oily and rich and this makes them a popular choice with the smaller songbirds that you would expect to see in your backyard.
The plant that sprouts from nyjer seeds also isn’t so popular in North America so the seeds are actually sterilized using high heat before they’re imported.
This helps to prevent them from spreading their plants while ensuring that they still keep their beneficial food values and nutrition.
White Millet (Proso)
If you’re looking to attract ground feeding birds to your backyard then you’re going to want to consider using white millet.
This seed helps to attract:
- American sparrows
The problem with using white millet is that it is also an attractive seed to blackbirds and the common house sparrow.
Many people, myself included, have a problem with house sparrows eating nearly everything I leave out in large amounts so I try to avoid any seeds that they might be interested in.
If you have a big problem with house sparrows or you just don’t want to see them in your backyard then I would recommend avoiding using white millet.
However, if you want to see more ground-feeding birds in your backyard then white millet makes for a good choice to use.
Simply scatter out a few handfuls of the white millet onto the ground early in the day and you can then enjoy the birds coming to eat it.
Try to avoid scattering out too much at a time because it could become moldy and if it’s not eaten during the day it will attract rodents throughout the night. If you’re using a feeder with a low-set tray that has proper drainage then it’s also a good idea to use white millet in that case as well.
Corn (Shelled and Cracked)
There are a variety of different birds that prefer eating shelled or cracked corn.
These birds include:
Apart from these species there is a wide range of other different birds that enjoy eating corn as well.
There are two main problems when it comes to using corn in your backyard or bird feeder.
The first problem is that many of the common backyard pests like house sparrows, geese, raccoons, deer and even bears are attracted by corn and are going to come around if they’re in your area and if you leave corn out for the birds.
This should definitely be avoided if these pests are bothering you as you want to take any steps you can to avoid attracting them even further.
Another problem is that corn is more likely to be contaminated with diseases, such as aflatoxins, more so than any other types of bird food.
Even in low amounts this is extremely toxic to birds and you’re going to want to take the steps to ensure that the corn you’re using does not become contaminated.
A good way to avoid contaminating your corn is to never buy any that comes in plastic bags, to never let it get wet and to never leave it out for more than one day especially during rainy or humid weather.
It’s also a good idea to regularly clean it up rather than letting it sit outside in your grass or build up in your feeder.
You’re also going to want to avoid using any corn that’s been covered in any type of red dye.
The reason it has red dye on it is because it has been designed for planting and likely covered with fungicides. It’s also toxic to not only birds but to humans and other small animals as well.
You should also never use any corn kernels or popcorn about has been designed for human use. These types of kernels are not well-suited for birds and will quickly go bad when left outdoors.
If you plan on using corn be sure to only leave it out in small amounts that will definitely be even throughout the day.
Make sure to leave it in dry areas, like on tray feeders for example, and avoid leaving it in tube feeders where it’s possible that moisture can build up and spoil the corn.
Apart from being very well liked by squirrels peanuts are also good idea to use if you want to see other large birds in your backyard such as:
- Blue jays
They’re also good for chickadees as well but you’ll want to avoid using them if you have a problem with squirrels, raccoons or even bears.
Peanuts are very similar to corn in that they contain aflatoxins and can be harmful to birds if they become moist, moldy and if they are left outside for too long.
It’s a good idea to use peanuts on a platform feeder or just to leave them outside on the windowsill, railing or any other flat area where the birds can easily access them.
Try to avoid leaving them out in places where there are a lot of squirrels and only leave a small amount out at a time.
If you’re using a seed mixture that contains other seats along with peanuts be sure you’re using them in a feeder that stays dry and try to avoid leaving them out in wet or humid outdoor weather.
You can definitely use peanuts either on a tray feeder, which is what I’d recommend, or with a tube feeder. If you’re using them with a tube feeder you’re going to want to replace them often and always dry out the feeder between uses.
Milo, also known as sorghum, is a great type of food to use if you’re interested in attracting ground feeding birds that you typically find in western regions.
Some of the birds that prefer milo include:
In some areas house sparrows will avoid eating milo and prefer some of the other more common types of seeds so they’re good to use if you want to control the amount of house sparrows visiting your backyard.
If you’re not a fan cowbirds either then you might want to avoid using milo as well.
For use, simply scatter the milo onto the ground to make it more attractive for ground feeding birds or use it in any low tray feeders that you have.
Millet, Flax and Less Popular Seeds
Millet, Flax and other lesser known seeds are most often used as fillers in the seed mixes that you can pick up at your local grocery or pet store.
Unfortunately, many backyard birds won’t eat these filler seeds and they will usually pick through them looking for the ones they want.
The problem with this is that the seeds that they don’t eat end up on the ground and can attract rodents or become moldy and spread bacteria.
Whenever you’re buying new birdseed it’s a good idea to go through the ingredients and look for different types of seed and feed that you recognize and to avoid ones that are full of the filler mixtures.
Canary Seed and Rapeseed
These are seeds that can also be found in popular mixtures and available at your local pet store.
There are a few different types of birds that eat rapeseed but you would be better off using a more common and popular sunflower seed instead.
Canary seeds are also not as popular but they’re very attractive to house sparrows so if you have a problem with them you’ll want to avoid using canary seed altogether.