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Seeds and Grains for Birds

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On this page:

Black-oil sunflower

Striped sunflower

Nyjer (thistle)

Safflower

Corn

Millet

Milo

Mixed seed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-oil sunflower

The most common type of seed offered at feeders in North America is black-oil sunflower seed. This small sunflower seed is high in energy and has thin shells, making it the preferred food item for a wide variety of birds. Black-oil sunflower is among the favorite feeder foods of cardinals, chickadees, finches, and sparrows. Woodpeckers even consume these seeds on occasion. boss.jpg (11458 bytes)
Striped sunflower
Striped sunflower seeds are larger and thicker-shelled than black-oil sunflower. Frequently found in seed mixes, striped sunflower is a favorite food item for large-billed birds capable of cracking the shells.
  Nyjer (thistle)
Often called "thistle" seed, nyjer is not related to North American thistle plants. This imported seed has become increasingly popular in recent years, largely due to its ability to attract finches including American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and Common Redpoll.
  Safflower
Safflower resembles a white sunflower seed. Grown for its oil and for bird seed, safflower attracts cardinals and other big-billed birds. However, in our experience, most birds prefer sunflower seeds over safflower. safflower.jpg (7466 bytes)
  Corn
Corn is an inexpensive grain that many FeederWatchers provide for birds. Whole corn is a favorite of Wild Turkeys and ducks, while cracked corn will attract doves, quail, and sparrows. corn.jpg (6727 bytes)
  Millet
A small, round grain, millet is commonly found in seed mixes. Millet is a favored food of many smaller, ground foraging birds. A handful of millet sprinkled on the ground will keep your juncos and sparrows happy. millet.jpg (6844 bytes)
  Milo

A reddish-colored, round grain, milo is often a major component of inexpensive seed mixes. Unfortunately, it is not a favorite of most birds, and the seed often goes to waste. Western birds tend to consume milo more than eastern birds. In the east, it is best to avoid mixes with large amounts of milo.

  Mixed Seed
We recommend that you avoid commercial mixtures that have a high percentage of less-appealing "filler" seeds, such as red milo. You can create your own seed mixes by combining any number of seeds. Seed mixes are generally prefered by birds visiting platform feeders. Mixed seed may also be spread on the ground. Try mixes containing millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seed to attract sparrows, juncos, doves, and quail.
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FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Home Page
Bird Studies Canada