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Home Best Backyard Bird-Feeding Practices Bird Seed and Other Bird Food What Bird Seeds Do Birds Like Best?
What Bird Seeds Do Birds Like Best?

When one goes to purchase bird seed, the buyer has many options.  Not only can one purchase bags with a single seed type, but individuals can purchase bird seed blends containing many different types of seed.  How does one know which bird seed to buy?

Recently, a three-year, one million dollar study of bird seed and feeder preferences in the United States and Canada attempted to answer this and other questions about bird feeding.  The study known as PROJECT WILDBIRD® was coordinated by Dr. David Horn and Stacey Shonkwiler at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois and funded by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry Research Foundation.

Nyjer® and sunflower hearts are the preferred seeds of smaller finches such as the American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin.  Large finches such as House Finch and Purple Finch, Northern Cardinal, and species that take a seed from the feeder and eat it elsewhere such as chickadees, prefer black-oil sunflower.  Birds that feed on the ground including Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and Mourning Dove prefer white proso millet.  

Bird seed such as red milo is unattractive to most birds visiting bird feeders.  Thus, purchasing bird food blends containing large amounts of red milo may result in bird seed that goes unused and a poor bird feeding experience.

While white proso millet is a preferred seed of species such as Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco, the seed is also the preferred bird seed of species such as House Sparrow and Brown-headed Cowbird.  Both of these species can have negative ecological impacts.  For example, House Sparrows compete with bluebirds for bird houses and Brown-headed Cowbirds are nest parasites that lay their eggs in other bird's nests.

To enhance the bird feeding experience, consider using seed blends with large proportions of black-oil sunflower, sunflower hearts, and Nyjer®.  Such bird seed blends can attract more birds without the bird seed going to waste.


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