Choosing the right bird feeder is as important as choosing the right seed. Different seeds will attract different types of birds, so knowing who likes what may be important! Contrary to popular belief, bird seeds are not “inert.” They will sprout under the right conditions. If spillage is a problem at your feeders, clean up the shells and husks regularly to prevent unwanted plant growth.
Corn is found in many commercial birdseed mixes. A corn feeder will attract blackbirds, blue jays, doves, pigeons and sparrows.
Millet is among the most common component of commercial seed mixes. It is small, round and hard. Most birds don’t really like millet, but millet feeders will attract blackbirds, doves, pigeons and sparrows. Many bird enthusiasts don’t use millet feeds because they appeal largely to “common” birds.
Many bird enthusiasts don’t appreciate jays. They’re noisy and aggressive toward other birds, and can clear out a feeder instantly. If you want the jays to steer clear of your primary feeders, set up a “nuisance” feeder especially for jays, and fill it with milo. Milo will also attract pigeons and doves, but it is generally unappealing to other species.
Suet is a good wintertime treat for birds that winter in place. You can purchase ready-made suet cakes or you can make your own using suet purchased from the meat counter at your local supermarket. Suet is made from rendered fat (usually beef) and can go bad if it is not properly prepared. If you don’t use ready-made suet cakes, avoid providing suet in warm weather. Suet cakes are rolled in birdseed, dried fruits and grains, and hang in a special suet cage. Suet will attract chickadees, jays, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers. Clean the suet cage carefully between cakes.
Sunflower seeds are a staple of most commercial bird feed mixes. While there are different types of sunflower seed, black oil sunflower seeds are most commonly used. If you stock your feeder with sunflower seeds, you can expect to see blackbirds, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, nuthatches, sparrows, titmice, and woodpeckers.
Songbirds absolutely adore thistle. This very small black seed will attract finches, but most other birds leave it alone because they can get a fuller meal with different seed varieties.
Most commercial feeds contain a large amount of millet. Millet-based feeds are less expensive, but tend to appeal only to a limited number of birds. Single-seed feeds tend to be much more expensive. If you want to limit the number of common birds at your feeders, look for seed mixes that will attract the kinds of birds you want to see.