All about backyard birds

What do Birds Eat, Choosing to Feed Wild Birds

For any responsible individual, making the decision to feed wild birds isn’t something done lightly. Someone who truly decides to feed birds will be buying a large amount of bird feed for the winter and at least one bird reference book along with binoculars, so they can identify the birds. But that’s not all. They will need to replenish the birds’ food several times a week, which can over the several winter months amount to a lot of work. Such dedication necessarily breeds expectations and hope of attracting an interesting variety of bird species. It’s only natural that all of us want to get something valuable for our invested time and money.

Choosing Which Bird Feed to Use

There are numerous different varieties of feed available. You can purchase either premade mixes or single types for making your own mix, and they’re available at supermarkets, livestock stores, and garden supply stores or even through catalogs or online. The number and species of birds coming to your feeder will depend on the food mix you put out. Until recently, we didn’t really understand how the selection of feed influences the selection of birds, but today we know much more and are able to attract certain species with the right selection of feed.

Sunflower seeds are generally attractive to most birds which eat seeds, and the most attractive kind is the black, oil type of sunflower seed. Another generally liked food is white millet, also known as white prove. This is attractive to house sparrows and brown headed cowbirds, but you should use white millet wherever there are small sparrow-like birds (like juncos and song sparrows). Other common cereal grains like wheat, oats, cracked corn, sorghum or rice are significantly less attractive to birds than black sunflower seeds and white millet. Flax seed, canary and rape are also rather unattractive. One common ingredient of most mixes is peanut hearts, which is a favorite of all starlings. If you prefer, you can attract mourning doves and cardinals, and keep away blue jays, brown headed cowbirds, grackels and house sparrows by putting out safflower seeds. Those seeds are also not interesting to most other bird species.

The smart bird feeder will chose not to buy premade mixes but will buy white millet and black sunflower seeds separately, from seed or animal feed dealers. Different mix ratios of these two best foods can be enough to draw most of the birds you will want to see.


How to Present the Bird Food?

Even though the most important element is choosing the right type of bird feed, you should not forget that correct placement of the feed is also important. Birds vary in color, shape, size, song and food preference, but they also differ in feeding behavior. Some will eat only when in trees, some exclusively when on the ground, while others are opportunistic and will eat whenever they find food they like. For this reason, it makes most sense to use a number of different feeders, besides using different food mixes.

Most well-known birds will use platform feeders. These are simple to construct yourself, or you can purchase hopper style feeders which are hanged from wires or poles. However, some birds like fox sparrows, white throated sparrows, juncos and towhees feed on the ground. These species will consume seeds which fall of feeders or seeds which you leave directly on the ground.

Another wide used type of feeder is the hanging tube feeder. These attract a variety of species, among them American goldfinches and chickadees, and if they are nearby pine siskins and red polls. These feeders allow goldfinches to escape the dominance of grackles and blue jays which rule the platform feeders.

Species feeding on the ground generally like white millet and tube feeding species prefer black sunflower seeds. For this reason, it makes no sense to use white millet mixes in tube or other hanging feeders with perching surfaces. A good way to attract woodpeckers is by using wire baskets with suet but this unfortunately also attracts starlings. Never forget that the birds also require water to be placed close to the feeders.

Naturally, most people focus on feeding the birds during winter. It is satisfactory not only because it attracts numerous birds but also because we know that we are helping the birds survive the cold season when food is scarce. But, feeding the birds all year long can also be very enjoyable. Since both spring and summer are also seasons without naturally produced seeds, if you fill your feeders with black sunflower seeds you will attract numerous gold finches and house finches.

What do birds eat a list of species and food preferences


American goldfinch likes niger seeds, hulled sunflower seeds and black sunflower seeds.

Blue Jay likes kernels of peanuts, black-stripe, gray-stripe and black sunflower seeds.

Brown-headed cowbird likes white and red proso, German millet, and canary seed.

Cardinal likes all types of sunflower seeds.

Chickadees like black and black-striped sunflower seeds and peanut kernels.

Dark-eyed juncos like red and white proso millet, canary seed and fine-cracked corn.

House sparrow likes white proso millet, canary seed and German (“golden”) millet.

Mourning doves like black sunflower seeds, white millet, niger, and German (“golden”) millet.

Common grackles like hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

Evening grosbeak likes sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

House finches like black and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, and niger. 

Purple finches like sunflower seeds and kernels.

Starlings like peanut hearts and hulled oats.

Song sparrows like white and red prove millet.

Tufted titmouses like peanut kernels, black-striped and black sunflower seeds.

White-crowned sparrow likes black sunflower seed, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, peanut kernels and hearts, niger seed.

White-throated sparrow likes black and black-striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, white and red prove millet, and peanut kernels.

Connected articles 

Bird Feeder Reviews

Best No Mess Bird Seed Review

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