Jan 22, 2020 | Featured Web Article

Millet vs. Milo

Millet (left) and milo (right). What are these seeds, and what birds eat them?
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If you look at the contents of a birdseed mix, you might find sunflower seeds, cracked corn, or peanuts. Those are pretty well understood commodities. But you might also find millet or milo. What are they, and who eats them?

Milo is the seed of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), which is a type of grass. It is reddish and slightly smaller than a BB. Because of its bulk, it is often found in less expensive seed mixes. Milo is a favorite of wild turkeys, quail, pigeons and doves, common grackles, European starlings, brown-headed cowbirds, and other ground-feeding birds. In the West, curve-billed thrashers and Steller's jays gobble it up! Mixed seed containing milo should be offered directly on the ground or on a platform feeder close to the ground. Milo is not a seed finches, sparrows, or most other songbirds prefer, so they'll kick it out of tube or other hanging bird feeders. Seed mix containing milo is a waste of money and space in the tube feeder if you are attempting to attract smaller songbirds, especially in the East.

Millet (Panicum miliaceum) is related to milo—they're both grass seeds. Millet seeds are smaller than milo, however, and smaller birds eat it. White proso millet is a favorite of ground-feeding birds including quail, doves, towhees, juncos and other sparrows, as well as Carolina wrens, but it also attracts cowbirds, blackbirds, and house sparrows. Cardinals, house finches, and pine siskins will eat it, but it's not a favorite. White millet can be offered on the ground, in low platforms, or in a seed mix offered in a hanging tube feeder or hopper, but expect chickadees and nuthatches to kick the millet to the ground.

As a rule of thumb, seed mixes—especially those that contain millet or milo—are best offered on a platform feeder low to the ground.



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  • That doesn't address my concern about the bird houses. I'm on a tiny piece of property (40x100) so there's not much room to plant a heck of a lot or places birds could put nests once the bird houses are gone.
    by Linda DiPierro, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • Plant some native plants in your yard that will attract pollinators and produce berries and nuts. There should be a local society that has a list of recommended plants, shrubs, and trees.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • Same concerns here. See above post. For your situation I would consider planting a few native plants that will naturally produce berries and seeds that the birds in your area need to survive. Try planting some that will yield foods for all seasons.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • I've thought about this myself. One thing I considered doing is leaving behind some bird food and a gift card to my local wild bird store with a note asking the new homeowners to please continue feeding the birds. Don't know how well that work but it's worth a try.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • thanks for the article. I believe that I may have spotted my first hairy woodpecker this morning. we see the downy woodpecker often. it's small. the hairy woodpecker, when compared with the downy, is HUGE. also, the downy feeds at the feeder like most birds--standing upright. This bird, because of its size, hung from the feeder perch with most of it's body below the feeder--like the red belly woodpeckers that we see often. we live is strasburg va. is it possible that we saw a hairy woodpecker this morning?
    by PEretired, Sat, 23 May 2020