How to Choose Bird Seed To Attract the Widest Variety of Birds

We’d like to teach you how to choose bird seed to attract the widest variety of birds to your yard. One of the most common questions we field at the shop is “What is the best seed to buy?” It’s a good question, and we can break it down simply. Choosing the right seed and feeders for the birds that you know are in your neighborhood is key. And then, beyond that, knowing what kinds of birds you’d like to attract will take the guesswork out of buying the right seed.

  • 1. Sunflower by itself attracts the widest variety of birds, period. The three common forms are Black Oil, Gray Striped and Sunflower Hearts. Any combo of those 3, or one on it’s own is fine. Our #2 Sunflower is a generous portion of Sunflower Hearts plus Black Oil. Tube Feeders are most successful with sunflower.
  • 2. Seed mixes belong in Hopper style feeders. Choose a mix with a generous portion of Sunflower for the best results.
  • 3. Nyjer seed (formerly called Thistle) is the tiny black seed that attracts American Goldfinch. Goldfinch are nomadic and may not be in your yard periodically, so you may see the feeder sit unused, occasionally. For this reason, buy only small quantities and use them up within a couple of months.
  • 4. Safflower is a great seed to use in Hoppers Feeders, particularly, but also Tube Feeders. Safflower is useful when blackbirds come in large flocks because they do not like Safflower as much as Sunflower.
  • 5. Shelled Peanuts are fun to offer in mesh-style feeders specifically designed for them (like our mesh feeders on our Tube Feeder page).

If you’d like to attract the smaller birds (think Chickadees, Titmice, Carolina Wren, Nuthatches), a tube style feeder is best, as these are perching birds and they can cling easily to the perches affixed to this type of feeder. Sunflower is the prime seed that these birds go for. Black Oil Sunflower has a soft shell that these birds can crack open easily. Our #2 Sunflower is a blend of Sunflower Hearts (no shell) and Black Oil Sunflower, and will attract an even wider variety of birds because there are some birds that don’t easily crack a shell open (Goldfinch!). #2 Sunflower is easily our top seller in the shop, as it is more economical than straight hearts, yet contains a generous proportion of Hearts vs. Black Oil with the shell, so there is less shell on the ground.

If you’re partial to the ground feeders such as Blue Jays, Cardinals and Mourning Doves, you should also have a hopper or tray style feeder that will be able to accommodate them. These birds are commonly called ground feeders, tend to like more space to feed, and are more comfortable on a tray or hopper. Think of your hopper or tray as a piece of ground that is up in the air. A mixed seed is good, but always buy a mix that contains a generous proportion of Sunflower. Our Blue Seal Songmaker contains Sunflower, Cracked Corn, Millet and cracked Peanut Hearts and is an affordable and clean seed that these birds will go for.

Another great seed for ground feeders is Safflower seed. Safflower is a white seed with a thick shell that is attractive to birds that can crack that shell open. Cardinals and Mourning Doves, as well as Titmice will come to Safflower. You may even make your own mix of Safflower and Sunflower and you will attract a wide variety of birds. We consider Safflower a good niche seed, and valuable for who it does not attract. Squirrels, Racoons and Blackbirds tend to leave Safflower alone.

Goldfinches will eat Nyjer seed (formerly called Thistle). To dispense this seed, you will need a special Nyjer feeder, as it is tiny in size and will pour out of the typical tube feeder. Who else eats Nyjer seed? In winter in New England you may see Pine Siskins and Purple Finch eating this seed, as well.

Shelled peanuts are a good source of high energy, too. Woodpeckers, Titmice, Carolina Wrens and more will come to peanut splits. One of the most popular sellers in the shop is a wire mesh peanut feeder that can be hung from a plastic suction cup hanger on a kitchen window. Why hang on a window? So you can see the birds up close!

So, there you have it! How to choose bird seed to attract the widest variety of birds is pretty simple!

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