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Food For Pet Birds - Types Of Seed

Updated on June 19, 2014

  • Safflower seed
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Canary Seed
  • Sesame
  • Oats
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Buckwheat
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Chickpea


  • Seeds
  • Why Different Types Of Seed?
  • Millet
  • Hemp
  • Nyjer Seed
  • Flax
  • Fennel
  • Sunflower
  • Alfalfa


Birds are a popular type of pet these days. Many people want to know what to feed their pet bird, in order to provide it with the best and healthiest life they can. After all, not only are we responsible for their wellbeing, but we come to love them and care for them as if they were our little feathery children! And they are, really. But when you buy seeds in the store, there's always a whole lot of different types of seed in such a package. Why? What's each seed good for?

In this article, I explain the nutrients of typical bird seeds, and why you should provide your pet bird with more than one type.


Why Different Types Of Seed?

The first thing we picture when thinking of bird food, is a bowl of seeds. Usually, such a bowl will include more than one type of seed. Whether we buy our food in the supermarket, go to a pet store to buy a premium brand, or create our own unique combination of seeds, it's always a variety of sizes and colors.

But why? Is this simply for esthetic purposes? Entertainment? Or perhaps clever marketing? Or might there be a more important reason behind this?

The answer is simple. Humans cannot survive on the exact same type of food all the time, and neither can birds. Whereas we fill our diet with fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, grains, ..., a bird will spend its time scouring the ground for seeds of all types. Of course, a bird needs more than just seeds, but that is not the purpose of this article. For more information on the different types of food a bird, such as a budgie, would need, please visit What Do Budgies Eat?, an article that will tell you what you should provide your little feathered friend with in terms of food to ensure a healthy, happy, and long life.

However, always eating the same type of vegetable will provide you with one type of nutrients, but will leave you short in other things. And so it is for birds. Every type of seed is different. Some contain more (healthy) fats, some are higher in protein, some contain more vitamin A or B, etc...

So if you are interested in finding out what's in those seeds you feed your flock, or you wish to create a balanced meal yourself, read on...



Millet is a type of grass with small seeds. It's often added to bird seed mixtures, as it is something birds absolutely love the taste of. Many people offer it separately as well, in the form of a string of millet.

High in: protein, fat, iron, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin B, potassium, zinc, magnesium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, folate


Hemp is most frequently known from its use in the fabrication of textiles, oil, paper or fuel. But hemp is also a very popular seed to add to bird food mixtures. In fact, up to 90% of all mixtures contain hemp!

High in: protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B1, B2 and B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, sodium, calcium, omega-3, amino acids

Nyjer Seed

Also know as niger or thistle seed, this flower seed is a great addition in winter, as it helps birds through the coldest time of year. It should also be added when birds are in need of an extra boost, such as when they're molting or taking care of young.

High in: fat, protein, oil, fiber, moisture, sugar, mineral, carbohydrate, calcium, phosphorus, iron


Flax is used for food, medicine, and industrial production. Even in the ancient world, its many uses were already known and so it was already popular in everyday use.

High in: fiber, calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, omega-3, antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, α-linolenic acid, omega-6, omega-9


Fennel is a flowering plant from the celery family that can be found in many places around the world. Like flax, it is used in both food and medicine.

High in: carbohydrates, protein, B vitamins, vitamin C, anethol


Who doesn't know the sunflower seed? Unlike most of the seeds mentioned on this page, sunflower seeds are also popular as a snack for humans. Although the oil is also frequently used, the seeds themselves contain a great amount of nutrients and so are very popular in food.

High in: carbohydrates, fat, tryptophan, protein, copper, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, iron, linoleic acid, phytosterol


Slightly less popular than the previously mentioned seeds, alfalfa is none the less an important crop in many parts of the world, both for its use as fodder and medicine. The whole plant is very good at keeping away insects and pests. It is, however, also used as a dietary supplement and added to salads or sandwiches!

High in: protein, fiber, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin D, vitamin E

Safflower seed

Another thistle-like plant that is mostly used for the oil we can extract from it and so is cultivated mostly for its seeds. It is used in food, medicine and as a food dye. It is a good alternative to sunflower seeds.

High in: linoleic acid, protein, fat, fiber, vitamin E, omega-3, omega-6

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are already mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts, and so have been in use for a long time. It is mostly used as a spice, a folk remedy, decoration on food, or as fodder.

High in: oil, antioxidants, fiber, fat, fatty acids, oleid acid, linoleic acid, B vitamins, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium

Canary Seed

The name says it all: this is a seed from a plant grown specifically to be used to feed birds! However, it can be used as food or the production of textiles.

High in: lipase, protein, fiber, amino acids, salisylic acid, oxalic acid, potassium, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, carbohydrates, fat, phosphorus, antioxidants


Sesame is a very popular seed, and has been used for a long time. It's used mostly in food or to ward off insects.

High in: oil, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, oleic acid, linoleic acid, omega-6, antioxidants, amino acids


Oat seeds are used mostly for food production, medicinal purposes, or to feed livestock. In Britain, it is used to brew beer.

High in: fiber, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc

Feeding your birds a wide variety of seeds will help ensure a long and happy life for your flock.
Feeding your birds a wide variety of seeds will help ensure a long and happy life for your flock. | Source

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Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are used in many parts of western society as a delicious snack rivaling sunflower seeds, and is also often used in food.

High in: vitamin E, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, protein, iron, antioxidants, potassium


Buckwheat has many uses. It can be used in food such as cereals, to stuff pillows, to brew beer or whisky, or in medicine. It can also help repel pests.

High in: protein, iron, zinc, amino acids, selenium, antioxidants

Mustard Seeds

Mustard is a very well-known and popular spice, often used as a condiment.

High in: carbohydrates, fat, protein, oil, all B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc


Mostly used in food, such as salads, or ground to flour, this is cultivated literally all over the world: from Asia, to South America, to Australia.

High in: protein, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, folate, phosphorus, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc

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