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Seeds for Your Bird Feeder

Updated on March 6, 2013
Backyard bird feeding
Backyard bird feeding

No matter what the season, it's always fun to watch the wild birds flock to your yard and enjoy the seeds you have in your feeder.

If you're like most people, you fill your bird feeder with a basic seed mix and hope for the best. But taking a bit of time and thought can help you tailor your seed offerings in order to attract the birds you'd like to watch.

Seed mixes are usually a lot of red millet and wheat seeds that birds don't actually seem to like all that much. I know my own bird feeder ends up with lots of the little round seeds all over the ground and left in the hopper. You might as well stick to the seeds that the birds really eat.

Black oil sunflower seeds

These are a little different from the sunflower seeds you buy as people-food for snacking. They are all black (no grey stripes) and much softer. Most birds love these and would make a great all-purpose seed for your feeder this winter. Cardinals, grosbeaks, finches and nuthatches are particularly fond of black oil seed. Regular sunflower seeds are cheaper, and will still attract larger birds like bluejays and woodpeckers.

Niger birdseed feeder
Niger birdseed feeder

Niger seed

These tiny black seeds are also called nyger, or thistle seed. They are so small that they don't work that well in a regular feeder, so you might want to get one with small openings (designed specifically for niger seed). Finches are particularly fond of niger seed, especially gold finches. It would be worth getting an extra feeder just to see these bright little fellows.

Cracked corn

Cracked corn is enjoyed by birds that feed from the ground, so if you put it in a hanging feeder it might get ignored until the smaller birds knock some out. You can attract birds like juncos, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds and doves with cracked corn.

Suet feeder cage
Suet feeder cage


I know that suet isn't really a seed, but it is worth mentioning. You'll need a cage to hold cakes of suet, or you can fashion your own holder (or even make your own suet). Woodpeckers, kinglets, tanagers, chickadees and nuthatches love suet. It is particularly beneficial in the cold months because of the high fat content.


These small seeds are usually found as the main component of cheap seed mixes, but are only preferred by a few birds. You'll attract sparrows, buntings, doves, juncos and towhees with simple millet seeds.


Other than seeds, you can also offer up fruit for your backyard birds, like pieces of orange, apple or banana. You'll find birds like grosbeaks, buntings, orioles, robins, thrushes and waxwings will flock to your feeder when there is fruit. If you are going to offer fruit, be prepared to change it frequently since is spoils so much quicker than bird seeds.


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    • ChrisSnil profile image

      ChrisSnil 9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Very useful indeed! Most of our mixes involve sunflower seeds - the greenfinches love them :)

      And of course there's peanuts so the squirrels don't feel left out and nab the grain :D

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 9 years ago from America

      We use all these seeds for our feeders. Birds love the black oily so do the deer and squirrels. We don't mind who eats them.