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Feeding Your Flying Friends

Attract backyard birds with the right seeds

May 2024

(Photo Courtesy Unsplash)

story courtesy of Family Features

While birdseed may all pretty much look the same to you, it doesn’t to the birds you’re feeding. Knowing what kinds of seeds different birds like can help you attract a wider variety of fine-feathered feeders.

Consider these popular seed types and the common backyard birds they attract:

SUNFLOWER – Black sunflower seeds attract blue jays, gold finches, woodpeckers, purple finches, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches. Striped sunflower seeds appeal to chickadees, doves, grosbeaks, northern cardinals, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers. Sunflower hearts (also known as “hulled sunflower” and “sunflower chips”) attract chickadees, common redpolls, juncos, doves, finches, gold finches, grosbeaks, nuthatches, pine siskins, titmice and woodpeckers.

NYJER – These lightweight, tiny seeds are a favorite of gold finches. Put nyjer seeds in a hanging feeder with tiny holes so the small seeds won’t get blown away. Nyjer also attracts redpolls, juncos, doves, indigo buntings and pine siskins.

SAFFLOWER – These white seeds are slightly smaller than black sunflower seeds. Because they are bitter, grackles, blue jays, starlings – and squirrels – don’t like them. However, they do attract doves, purple finches, chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers.

WHITE MILLET – Good for scattering on the ground, white millet attracts ground feeders such as juncos, sparrows, indigo buntings, towhees and mourning doves.

CRACKED CORN – Popular with ground feeders, cracked corn appeals to doves, crows, jays, sparrows, juncos and towhees. Avoid getting finely cracked corn, as it’s vulnerable to rot and can quickly turn to mush.

THE RIGHT MIX – When choosing a prepackaged birdseed mix, pay attention to the ingredients listed on the package. Bird seed is required by law to list ingredients in order of content. The first few seeds listed are the primary ingredients of that mix.

Some cheaper mixes include filler seeds such as wheat, red milo, red millet or “assorted grain products.” Most backyard birds won’t eat those, so your seed mix could end up wasted on the ground.

Learn more about making your backyard an oasis for birds of all kinds at audubon.org/bird-guide.