One of the common questions we receive in our store is, “what is the best seed for my birds?” or “what seed can I put out to attract different kinds of birds?” Well, the answer is fairly simple. However, before I ever answer that question, I always ask one in return – “what kind of birds do you want to attract to your yard?” This is really the key to deciding what kind of bird seed will be best in YOUR yard. There are basically two categories of birds that we consider when feeding birds (1) birds that perch when they eat, and (2) ground foraging birds. Some of our customers really like the idea of
having as many different kinds of birds in their yard as possible, regardless of the mess. Other people, however, would rather not have any food falling to the ground, and are really looking to attract only the birds that come to the feeder, which we call songbirds. In the case of wanting birds that only come to the feeder, we feel that Black Oil Sunflower is the best seed, specifically shelled Black Oil Sunflower (Sunflower Chips). The reason I say shelled is for the obvious, the shells will leave quite a mess on the ground, and will also allow for sprouting, which for many people is not desired, but for others may be no big deal! The less obvious reason is how cost effective it is to feed black oil sunflower, because you would be paying for the weight of the shell as well as the weight of the seed. On the other hand, if you are more interested in attracting as many birds as possible, then a blend of seeds would
suit you better. Our best-selling blend is called Patio Mix, and it contains Sunflower Chips, hulled millet, and shelled peanuts. If you put a blend like this in your feeder, the birds that come to your feeder will mostly eat the sunflower chips and drop the rest for the ground foraging birds to pick up.
Another thing to consider, when thinking about the best seed to put out, is the season. In the Sacramento Valley we have many migratory species in the fall and winter time,
many of which are ground foraging birds. Among these species, many of them will choose millet as their most preferred seed. Conversely, we don’t have as many ground foraging birds in the spring and summer time, so sometimes feeding a blend of seed that contains millet may not be as effective. Nyjer-Thistle is also more of a seasonal seed that is specifically preferred among the American Gold Finches. These birds migrate during the summer months, towards the foothills, and return to our valley from mid-October to April. While they normally prefer Sunflower throughout other parts of the year, during the cooler months they tend to prefer Nyjer-Thistle.
The last seed that I like to recommend to our customers is safflower. Safflower is a seed that is enjoyed by many birds, but most of all by titmice, nuthatch, and mourning doves. My favorite presentation of this seed is the
Safflower Cylinder, which is just safflower held together with gelatin, in cylinder form. It’s great fun to watch the titmice return again and again to pluck a single safflower seed from the cylinder. Another positive note is that the safflower cylinder also tends to leave less of a mess behind. However, if you are interested in attracting more doves, rather than titmice, and nuthatch, then throwing loose seed on the ground would be a better option.
Seeds mentioned in this article:
Medium Sunflower Chips, Nyjer-Thistle, Safflower, Millet, Patio Mix, Black Oil