Jan 30, 2020 | Featured Web Article

Types of Seed Blends

Bird seed is the hamburger of the bird-feeding world. The picture above shows Nyjer/Thistle seed, peanuts, millet, and cracked corn.
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With several types of bird food available on the market today, it's nice to have an option that offers something for everyone eating in your backyard. That's where birdseed blends come in. These mixes of sunflower seeds, peanuts, corn, safflower, and other ingredients are an essential part of any program, particularly when higher-calorie foods become important for survival in the latter part of the year. We've rounded up the most common ingredients of seed blends, their benefits to birds, and how to make sure you're buying the right mix for your backyard birding needs.

Black-oil Sunflower Seed

Black-oil sunflower seeds.

This seed offers high fat and oil content, which is useful for juncos, sparrows, and other backyard birds during the cold winter months. Because a wide variety of bird species will consume it, black-oil sunflower seed is a central part to any seed blend. Its thin, paper-like shell can even be cracked by goldfinches with their small bills.

Sunflower Hearts, Kernels, and Chips

Sunflower hearts.

These shell-free versions of sunflower seeds benefit backyard birds as well as humans. They save birds from spending time and energy to crack open shells, and they leave no empty hulls below feeders for people to clean up.

Safflower

Indigo bunting at a safflower feeder.

The tapered, white seeds of the thistle-like safflower are a favorite of cardinals, jays, sparrows, and towhees. Grackles and starlings, both "bully birds" that are notorious for dominating bird feeders, typically leave this seed type alone.

Peanuts

A blue jay visits a peanut feeder.

These high-fat legumes are an excellent source of energy for jays, wrens, titmice, chickadees, and other birds. If you want to offer them alone rather than as part of a seed blend, make sure they’re not salted or otherwise seasoned. Larger birds like jays and woodpeckers can handle shelled peanuts, while smaller species need little bits of the nutmeat to easily break into bite-sized pieces. Squirrels and chipmunks also enjoy peanuts, so it’s a good idea to offer them as a snack in moderation.

Millet

Millet seeds.

Although those tiny, cream-colored balls might just look like filler in a birdseed blend, white proso millet is actually enjoyed by sparrows, juncos, doves, and quail. Having said that, if you find a bag that contains more millet and red-colored milo seeds than other ingredients, it’s best to choose a seed blend with a variety of components that will better meet your other backyard birds’ nutritional needs.

Cracked Corn

Crakced corn.

This common ingredient in seed blends for backyard birds is often eaten last after the sunflower and millet options have been consumed. It's favored by doves, quail, and pheasants, but can also attract bullies such as house sparrows, cowbirds, grackles, and blackbirds. To keep these less-desirable species away, opt for a corn-free birdseed blend.

Tip: When summer ends, if you haven’t already started, begin offering seed blends at your feeders to attract finches and sparrows. These resident species will, in turn, bring winter migrants to your backyard feeding station.



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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