Selecting Birdseed

Feeding birds and selecting the proper seed is an activity the whole family can enjoy

Selecting Birdseed

It is easy to encourage those local feathered friends living in your backyard to visit your home using various kinds of birdseed and other food. This guide will teach you the different kinds of seed types along with feeding tips.

Seed Types, Suet and Nectar

A single bird feeder is great for a beginner, however you may find that certain breeds pique your interest. Once you determine the breed you can find out the seed options that appeal most to that breed.

Seed Types:
Most people are familiar with seed mixtures as they are widely available and typically include a variety of seeds designed to appeal to a diverse range of birds. If you are looking for wide appeal with minimal waste and mess, black-oil sunflower seeds are a popular single-seed variety. They appeal to a large number of birds and offer a higher seed-to-shell ratio than striped sunflower seeds. Millet is also available in both white and red varieties while cracked corn is often included in mixed seed as well and appeals to ground-feeding birds such as quails, doves and pheasants. Peanuts are typically sold without the shell as most birds find their large hulls awkward and cumbersome. Thistle, or nyjer, is a small black seed that appeals to various types of finches and siskins while safflower seeds attract cardinals and are not well liked by many squirrels.

Suet, Nectar and Other Feed: Suet is used to attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches. Premade suet cakes are made from beef fat and can include other ingredients such as nuts and berries. It is not a good idea to use suet cakes in warmer weather as the oil can become rancid. A good alternative is peanut butter mixed with corn meal or other grains. To draw in hummingbirds and orioles you can use nectar feeders filled with a simple sugar-water solution. Thoroughly clean hummingbird and oriole feeders every few days to prevent buildup of harmful molds and you can make your own nectar solution by adding one cup of refined white sugar to four cups boiling water.

Tips and Hints

Keep all birdseed in a dry location, safe from rodents and other pests. A large plastic or metal garbage can or storage bin is a good option. Place feeders near shrubbery to make birds feel safe and provide them with a comfortable place to rest. Be sure to regularly clean feeders to reduce the spread of disease amongst bird populations and frequently change seed to prevent it from becoming stale or moldy.

Discourage squirrels by placing feeders at least 5-feet high and 8-feet away from potential springboards like tree trunks and limbs. Provide birds with plenty of water for bathing and drinking. Before selecting a seed type, consult the following chart for general guidelines about what types of birds you will be attracting and some important points to consider:

Seed Type Birds Points to Consider

Black-Oil Sunflower Seeds

Blue Jay, Cardinal, Chickadee, Evening Grosbeak, Goldfinch, House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Tufted Titmouse, Rufus-sided Towhee, Junco

  • Most popular
  • Attracts widest range of
  • Holds higher percentage of
    seed "meat"
  • Thin, papery shell is easy
    to remove for most birds

Cracked Corn

Quail, Pheasant, Dove, Blackbird, Grackle, House Sparrow

  • Often used as an ingredient
    in seed mixtures
  • Easily absorbs moisture and is susceptible to rot
  • Set out only a small amount on a tray feeder or use a weather - proof tube or hopper feeder


Mockingbird, Robin, Waxwing, Bluebird, Oriole, Tanager

  • Place orange wedges, dried
    fruit, and other items out for
    fruit-loving birds


Fox Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Song Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Cardinal, Towhee, Quail, Junco, Red-winged Blackbird

  • Choose from red or white
    millet to attract different birds
  • Often used as an ingredient
    in seed mixtures


Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Pheasant, Quail, Dove

  • Used to attract ground-
    feeding birds in the
    Southwest region


Hummingbird, Oriole

  • Requires a special nectar
  • Must be cleaned every 2-3
  • Make nectar with 1 part
    sugar and 4 parts water

Peanut Butter

Woodpecker, Titmice, Chickadee, Warbler

  • Makes a good alternative to
    suet in hot weather


Woodpecker, Chickadee, Jay, Nuthatch, Creeper, Tufted Titmouse, Wren, Starling, Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler

  • Already-shelled peanuts
    appeal to a larger population
    of birds
  • Available in whole and
    crushed varieties

Safflower Seeds


  • Most squirrels and blackbirds do not like safflower seeds

Seed Mixtures

Depends on the contents of the mixture, consult package label for more details

  • All-in-one solution for
    attracting a wide range
    of birds
  • Cheap mixtures can contain
    high amounts of "filler" seed


Chickadee, Common Flicker, Woodpecker, Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rufus-sided Towhee

  • Made from beef fat
  • Can be purchased in ready-to- use cakes or make your own
  • Can go rancid in high heat
  • Prepared cakes may
    include berries, nuts and
    other food items

Thistle (Nyjer)

Goldfinch, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch

  • Highly expensive
  • Requires a special feeder
    with smaller holes to
    prevent seed loss

Birdseed Features

There are seed features which will attract specific species of birds to your home.

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds:
    Striped sunflower seeds are a favorite among wild birds. However, the tough outer shell can be a hindrance to smaller-beaked birds. Fortunately, there are seeds available with the hulls already removed. While they are often more expensive, they are very popular with siskins, wrens, goldfinches and more.
  • Specialty Mixes:
    Look for seed mixtures designed to attract specific species of birds such as cardinals, finches and more.
  • Grit:
    Birds need grit to digest their food properly. You can purchase some and place it out on a flat surface near your feeders.