18 Types of Bird Feed Explained

18 Types of Bird Feed Explained

The seed which attracts the broadest array of birds, and so the mainstay for many bird feeders in the backyard, is sunflower. Additional seed varieties may assist in attracting various kinds of birds to round out any backyard visitors. Generally, mixtures which contain oats, red millet, and additional “fillers” aren’t appealing to many birds and may produce lots of waste as the birds sift through the mixture.


There are a couple of kinds of sunflower—striped and black oil. Black oil seeds have extremely thin shells, easy for pretty much all seed-eating birds to get open, and kernels inside have a high content of fat, very valuable for many winter birds. A striped sunflower seed has a thicker shell, more difficult for blackbirds and House Sparrows to crack open. Therefore, if you are inundated with species you would rather not subsidize with the black oil sunflower, prior to doing anything else, attempt to switch to striped sunflower.

Individuals who live in apartments or who’ve experienced trouble raking seed shells up underneath their feeders oftentimes provide shelled sunflower. Most birds like this, as of course will squirrels, and it is expensive. Without the shield of its shell, sunflower chips and hearts rapidly spoil, and may harbor harmful bacteria; therefore, it is critical that you provide no more than is able to be consumed in one or two days.

Sunflower is highly appealing to squirrels, an issue for those who do not want to subsidize them. A few types of squirrel baffles, and a handful of specialized feeders, are pretty good at excluding them. Sunflower inside the shell may be provided in a broad array of feeders, which include tube feeders, trays, acrylic window feeders, and hoppers. Sunflower chips and hearts should not be provided inside tube feeders in which moisture might collect.


Safflower contains a thick shell, which is difficult for some flying creatures to crack open, yet is a favorite among cardinals. Some chickadees, grosbeaks, native sparrows, and doves also consume it. Squirrels, European Starlings, and House Sparrows do not like safflower; however, in some places tend to have developed a taste for it, according to some sources.

Grosbeaks and cardinals usually like hopper and tray feeders, which will make the feeders an excellent option for providing safflower.

Thistle or Nyjer

Small finches, which include Lesser Goldfinches, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Indigo Buntings, and Common Redpolls oftentimes devour these black, tiny needle-like seeds. When invasive thistle plants became an issue inside North America, suppliers changed to a daisy-like plant, referred to as Guizotia abyssinica, which generates a similar kind of rich, oily, small seed. Now, the plant is referred to as nyjer or niger, and is currently imported from overseas. These seeds are heat-sterilized within importation to restrict their odds of spreading while keeping their food value.

White Proso Millet

It’s a favorite among ground-feeding birds, which include native American sparrows, quails, towhees, doves, cardinals, and juncos. Unfortunately it also is a favorite among cowbirds and additional blackbirds, as well as House Sparrows, which already are subsidized by human being activities and supported in unnaturally high levels of population by present habitat changes and agricultural practices. As the species are present, it is better not to use millet; pretty much all of the birds which like it equally are attracted to black oil sunflowers.

Because millet is highly preferred by ground-feeding birds, it often is scattered on the ground—a great practice so long as no more is placed out than birds are able to consume in one day. Low-set tray feeders that have exceptional drainage may also be an excellent option for white millet.

Cracked and Shelled Corn

Corn is consumed by cranes, ducks, doves, jays, ravens, crows, grosbeaks, cardinals, quails, turkeys, pheasants, grouse and additional species. Corn, unfortunately, has a couple of serious issues. First, it is a favorite of cowbirds, House Sparrows, geese, starlings, deer, raccoons, and bears—none of which ought to be subsidized by us. Secondly, corn is the food more than likely to be contaminated with aflatoxins that are highly toxic even at lower levels. Never purchase corn inside plastic bags, never permit it to become wet, never provide it in quantities which cannot be eaten in one day during very humid or rainy weather, and be conscientious of raking old corn up.

Never provide corn that is covered in red dye. Corn meant for planting often is treated using fungicides, marked with a red dye as a warning. It’s extremely toxic to all birds, livestock and humans.

Never provide buttered popcorn or any type of microwave popcorn, as popped corn quickly spoils.

Corn ought to be provided in pretty small amounts during a time on tray feeders. Do not provide it in tube feeders which might harbor moisture.


Peanuts are highly popular with woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, crows, jays and other species, yet also are favored by raccoons, bears, squirrels and other animals which shouldn’t be subsidized. As with corn, peanuts have an extreme likelihood of harboring aflatoxins; therefore, have to be kept dry and quickly used up.

Peanuts inside the shell might be set out on a platform feeder or directly on a deck railing or a window feeder as a treat for jays, if they get to them before squirrels do. If peanuts or mixes of peanuts and additional seeds are provided in tube feeders, be certain to frequently change the seed, particularly during humid or rainy weather, fully emptying out and cleaning up the tube each time.

Sorghum or Milo

Milo is a favorite among most Western ground-feeding feathered friends. In Cornell Lab of Ornithology preference of seeds tests, Curve-billed Thrashers, Steller’s Jays, and Gambel’s Quails liked milo over sunflower. In one other study, House Sparrows didn’t consume milo, yet cowbirds did.

Milo ought to be scattered around the ground or upon low tray feeders. Stop providing it if you are subsidizing cowbirds.

Flax, Red Millet, Golden Millet and Others

Oftentimes, these seeds are utilized as fillers in packaged birdseed mixtures, yet many birds shun them. Waste seed will become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria, and contaminate fresh seed more rapidly. Be certain to read the ingredients on birdseed mixes, avoiding the ones that have those seeds. In particular, if a seed mixture has lots of red, small seeds, be certain they are sorghum or milo, not red millet.

Canary Seed and Rapeseed

These seed types do not provide a lot over the more widespread seeds. Some birds do consume rapeseed, which include juncos, finches, doves, and quails. If you aren’t getting these, the rapeseed is going to be left to spoil. Canary seed is extremely popular with cowbirds and House Sparrows—birds which most individuals would prefer not to attract. Additional species which consume canary seed equally are happy with sunflower; therefore, it’s an overall better option.

About Mealworms, Suet, And Additional Bird Foods

Seeds are an outstanding way to get feathered friends into the yard—however, they aren’t the only food group available. Birds have a varied diet and a few of the foods that follow will assist you in attracting an even higher bird selection.


Suet technically is defined as the hard fat that surrounds the loins and kidneys in mutton and beef, yet in common use, many types of beef fat also are referred to as suet and safely can be fed to birds. Suet especially is appealing to starlings, jays, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. Creepers, wrens, kinglets, and cardinals and a few warblers periodically go to suet feeders. Animal fat easily is metabolized and digested by most birds; it is a high-energy food, particularly valuable in cool weather.

Raw suet quickly grows rancid as temperatures are beyond freezing; do not provide it except in the winter. As suet is melted and its impurities removed, it’ll keep a lot better, yet still can become soft during hot weather. As suet becomes soft, it may coat belly feathers, a harmful situation particularly in summer and spring as birds are incubating—small pores on the birds’ eggs might become clogged, and prevent a developing embryo from receiving enough oxygen.

Suet cakes include blocks that are made from suet or thick substitute blended with other ingredients, like peanuts, corn meal, fruits, or dried insects. Because peanuts and corn can offer a growth medium for harmful bacteria, it is vital for you to make your very own suet cakes or purchase them from a reputable dealer. It might be prudent to keep the suet cakes made with peanuts, cornmeal, or corn in the refrigerator until using.

Starlings are fond of suet. In order to dissuade them, provide suet inside a feeder which requires birds to eat hanging upside down. Nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers will easily access it, yet starlings can’t.

Peanut Butter

In the winter, particularly in cool climates, it’s a nutritious food to provide birds. Peanut butter that is sold in stores is certified safe for consumption by humans, and is safe to provide birds when frigid temperatures make it fairly difficult. In hotter weather, it mustn’t be kept outside too long or it could become soft or rancid.

There’s some concern that softer peanut butter may stick to a bird’s mouth. In order to make it grittier, cornmeal might be added, yet because both peanuts and corn offer exceptional mediums for fungal and bacterial growth, be certain peanut butter feeders frequently are cleaned out. Peanut oils might separate in pure peanut butter and inside mixes. If the oils adhere to the nesting bird’s feathers, they might be transferred to the eggs, and plug the pores; therefore, never give peanut butter mixes which become oily or soft.


They’re larvae of a flightless insect referred to as the darkling beetle. They are a severe pest in granaries, yet are easy and safe to maintain in our homes, confined inside plastic bins or buckets.

Mealworms may be a great source of calcium, protein, and vitamins for a good many birds, which include some which usually do not visit feeders, yet mealworms only are as healthful as the diet they’re fed. If you order mealworms in bulk, they typically are available in packaged wads of newspaper, and are going to consume the ink, paper, and all. Therefore, be certain to take them from the paper as fast as you can as they arrive. It may be tricky to take them from their packaging—it is simpler to avoid setting them free inside your home if you transfer them from their packaging to your buckets outside, or over an extremely large piece of white paper in order for you to spot any runaway mealworms prior to them getting far. They do not live long away from a supply of food; however, few individuals relish the idea of them, alive or dead, in crevices inside their houses.

To sustain a large amount of mealworms, fill up the bottom of a dishpan, ice cream bucket, or similar bin that has one or two inches of wheat bran or dry oatmeal. Add chunks of apple or raw potato for moisture, then place the mealworms in. In order to improve the levels of several nutrients, particularly within the nesting season, you may add powdered hand-feeding food (the type that is marketed as a complete diet for baby parrots that are hand reared).

Mealworms cannot escape a plastic enclosure like a bucket so long as there are at least 2 – 3” of vertical wall between the lip and the surface of the medium. Keep them inside the coldest place in the house—typically a basement is an outstanding selection—on a surface in which the bucket will not easily be knocked over.

There is lots of great information in regard to mealworms upon the North American Bluebird Society site and on how to raise them upon the Sialis site.

Many birds voraciously will gobble mealworms up at feeders that provide them, and only is affordable if you set out a couple at a time, at feeders that are inaccessible to birds you do not want to subsidize. Tiny acrylic window feeders will work well; if yours contains drainage holes, be certain to plug them because the worms are able to squeeze through small spaces. Special bluebird feeders which exclude many other birds are commercially available.

Fruit Seeds and Fruits

Within the tropics, most individuals set out fruit for the birds, attracting a massive amount of tanagers and additional species which North Americans rarely consider “feeder birds.” However, even within the north, thrushes, robins, bluebirds, waxwings, catbirds, mockingbirds, and tanagers sometimes can be attracted to feeders that provide fruit. Because very few individuals in Canada or the United States provide fruit at feeders, very few individuals of those species have experience eating at feeders; therefore, it might be tricky to entice them to fly close enough to discover the concept. Fresh berries; chunks of melons, fresh apples, or grapes; or frozen berries, are outstanding choices. Currants or raisins which were softened by soaking in water also may be good. Orange halves especially are appealing during spring migration, particularly to orioles.

Offering fruits may cause some severe problems. It’ll quickly spoil, so feeders have to be cleaned and emptied frequently. Providing fruit inside a plastic cereal bowl will make it an easier job. Unfortunately, in the summer, fruit will attract wasps and ants; fortunately, there isn’t any compelling reason to feed fruit within fall and summer as so much fresh fruit is naturally available.

Pumpkin seeds and additional melon or squash seeds may be very appealing for birds. Bake them or you can spread them out to completely dry, then run them through the food processor to chop them up, making them easier for small birds to consume.


Catbirds, orioles and occasionally Cape May Warblers may be enticed to go to feeders providing jelly. Be certain to just provide extremely small amounts at once, because it can get very sticky; smaller birds may become mired in it. Jelly also has a lot higher sugar concentrations than natural food. It probably isn’t unhealthful for an adult bird to supplement a diet during serious food shortages related to unseasonable cool spells in the spring, or in smaller amounts during the remainder of the year. Occasionally, adult orioles and additional birds visit jelly for a fast treat while looking for insect food to feed their young in the summer; this will not hurt them.

Minerals and Grit

Eggshells are a great source of calcium and grit, yet chicken eggs might harbor salmonella bacteria. A shell from a hard-boiled egg was sterilized in the process of cooking; however, if you offer eggshells which were not cooked, you can bake them for twenty minutes at 250° Fahrenheit, allow them to cool, then crush them into smaller pieces, the size of a dime. Provide eggshells on the ground, inside a dish, or on low-platform feeders, separate from the seed feeders.


Leftovers aren’t recommended. Putting leftovers out might seem like a method of avoiding waste, yet it isn’t typically a good thought for feeding birds inside the backyard. It is possible for the food sources to spoil and be unhealthy for many songbirds.

Bacon Drippings

Bacon drippings aren’t recommended. Bacon always has detectable quantities of nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds that are formed from a few of the preservatives utilized in bacon. In particular, the extremely high cooking temperatures utilized to fry bacon are conducive to the formation of nitrosamine. Therefore, despite the truth that birds like it, bacon fat and bacon pose too much of a threat to the long-range health of birds to warrant its use.

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