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Which Wild Bird Seeds Should I Pick?


By Tom Patrick, Windstar Wildlife Preserve

Confused about what birdseed to buy for your feeders? If you answered yes, you're not alone. Some say you are wasting seed when you feed mixes. Others disagree and claim great results with mixes.

Go with whatever works for you. There is, however, research to guide you about what grain or mix to feed.

Dr. Aelred D. Geis, affectionately called "Dr. Birdseed" by his friends, decided to find out what birds like when he was in charge of the Urban Wildlife Research Program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

He recruited feeding observers in Maryland, California, Ohio and Maine to conduct his study of 16 different seeds. A total of 710,450 observations were made.

The study found that black oil sunflower is the most popular seed with most seed-eating birds.

White proso millet is the most popular with sparrows and doves. Common cereal grains - milo, wheat, cracked corn and oats - as well as flax, canary and rape seeds rate significantly lower than sunflower and millet.

So what does this mean for you? Since bird populations differ from place to place and change from time to time, it is almost impossible to formulate an entirely satisfactory seed mixture. If you have only one or two feeders, you can probably obtain the best results by offering black oil sunflower seed and white proso millet separately.

Some birds feed almost exclusively four feet or more above ground level on elevated feeders. Others feed on the ground or on a slightly elevated platform. Still others will feed wherever they can find food. In general, birds attracted to elevated feeders prefer sunflower seed, while ground feeders prefer millet.

Tube feeders with small perches should be filled with some type of sunflower seed - black oil, striped or hulled. Other tube feeders are made especially for niger (thistle) seed. Usually, birds aren't attracted to tube feeders filled with millet or mixes.

The following chart presents the results of a study conducted by Dr. Aelred D. "Dr. Birdseed" Geis of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

(o) Denotes Types of Wild Bird Food Preferred, (x) Denotes Favorite Choice
Types of Wild Birds
Black Oil Sunflower
Grey-stripe Sunflower
Blended Sunflower
Wild Bird Food
Feeder's Select
Eastern Bluebird
o
Northern Cardinal
x
o
o
o
o
Carolina Chickadee
x
o
o
o
o
Brown-headed Cowbird
o
o
Brown Creeper
Mourning Dove
o
o
o
o
Rock Dove
o
House Finch
x
o
o
o
o
Purple Finch
x
o
o
o
o
American Goldfinch
x
o
o
o
Evening Grosbeak
x
o
o
o
o
Blue Jay
o
x
o
o
o
Northern Junco
o
o
Northern Mockingbird
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
x
o
o
o
o
Pine Siskin
o
o
o
o
o
House Sparrow
o
o
o
o
o
Song Sparrow
o
o
o
o
Tree Sparrow
o
White-crowned Sparrow
o
o
o
o
o
White-throated Sparrow
x
o
o
o
o
Brown Thrasher
o
Tufted Titmouse
o
x
o
o
o
Red-bellied Woodpecker
o
o
Woodpeckers
Carolina Wren
(o) Denotes Types of Wild Bird Food Preferred, (x) Denotes Favorite Choice
Types of Wild Birds
Niger Thistle
Cracked Corn
Millet
Suet
Eastern Bluebird
o
Northern Cardinal
o
o
 
Carolina Chickadee
o
Brown-headed Cowbird
o
x
Brown Creeper
o
Mourning Dove
o
o
x
Rock Dove
o
House Finch
o
Purple Finch
o
American Goldfinch
o
Evening Grosbeak
Blue Jay
o
o
o
Northern Junco
o
o
x
Northern Mockingbird
o
Red-breasted Nuthatch
o
White-breasted Nuthatch
o
Pine Siskin
o
House Sparrow
o
o
x
Song Sparrow
o
x
Tree Sparrow
o
x
White-crowned Sparrow
o
White-throated Sparrow
o
o
o
Brown Thrasher
o
Tufted Titmouse
o
Red-bellied Woodpecker
o
o
Woodpeckers
x
Carolina Wren
o

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