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Choosing Bird Seed to Attract Different Wild Birds to the Garden

Updated on August 20, 2012

Choosing Bird Seed

Not all bird seed is created equal, and choosing different types attracts various wild birds to the garden. The right combination of bird feeder, seed and placement can attract various colorful birds. A good seed mixture attracts a variety of wild birds to the garden, while a single type of seed may be added to support migrating birds or endangered species.

Bird Seed and Bird Feeders

During the winter months, you can pick up a package of bird seed at any grocery store, hardware store, feed store, or nursery and garden center. But what's in each bag of seed?

Most seed mixtures contain the following in varying amounts:

  • Millet – tiny beadlike seeds from the grain, millet
  • Thistle or Nyjer – also spelled niger (NYE-jer) these are small nutritious seeds
  • Sunflower seeds – either whole sunflowers or the center portion, but most likely whole sunflowers
  • Corn – some seed mixtures contain dried corn kernels
  • Fillers – the least expensive brands of sunflower seeds may contain more filler types of grass seeds

A good quality mixture contains higher proportions of sunflower seeds, nyjer and thistle. You can also purchase bags of only one type of seed, such as bags of black oil sunflower seeds (the most nutrient dense and rich of all sunflower seeds) or nyjer. By placing only one type of seed in a feeder, you'll attract a specific type of bird. To get started attracting, feeding and watching birds, a simple wild bird mix attracts the broadest possible types of wild birds.

Seeds to Attract Common North American Birds

If you're feeling adventurous and wish to attract specific birds to the garden feeder, try feeding exclusively with one of the following seeds to attract a specific species of bird.

  • American Goldfinch: Black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower seeds, thistle (nyjer)
  • Blue Jay:  Peanuts, sunflower seeds (regular gray striped) or black oil sunflower seeds
  • Chickadees: Sunflower seeds of all types
  • House Finch: Sunflower seeds of all types, thistle or nyjer
  • Mourning Dove: Canary seed, millet, sunflower seeds of all types
  • Northern Cardinals: Sunflower seeds of all types, milo seeds, safflower and thistle
  • Purple Finch: Sunflower seeds of all types, canary seed, thistle
  • Song Sparrow: Canary seed, millet, milo seed, sunflower seeds
  • Tufted Titmouse: Peanut kernels (hulled peanuts), sunflower seeds of all types
  • White throated and white-crowned sparrow: Finely cracked corn, millet seeds, peanut kernels, sunflower seeds

Sunflower Seeds Attract the Most Birds

Sunflower seeds attract the every single type of bird on the list!  Birds adore sunflower seeds. I plant rows of sunflowers along the sunny southern side of my house each year. This year even before I could harvest the flowers and dry them for seeds, flocks and American goldfinches descended each afternoon on the flowers.  They came right up to the windows.  My cat and I spent many a happy moment sitting comfortably on the couch watching these beautiful, colorful birds.  If you purchase just one bag of seed other than a mixed package, choose black oil sunflower seeds or the less expensive gray-striped sunflower seeds.  Nearly every bird species common to backyard gardens throughout North America loves this seed.


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    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 6 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Good advice! Lots of nice detail! Beautiful pictures! Voted up and useful! ;D