Backyard Ecology Creating Space for Pollinators and Wildlife
Creating Space for Pollinators and Wildlife

4 Common Types of Bird Seed and the Winter Birds They Attract

Many people enjoy feeding the birds, especially during the winter. It is a great way to attract birds to your home and to an area where you can easily watch them. The types of birds that come to your feeders will depend partly on the types of birds that are in your area and partly on the type of food you offer them.

4 Common Types of Bird Seed and the Winter Birds They Attract

1) Cheap bird seed mixes: These are the bags of mixed bird seed that are often labeled “Bird Seed” and are much cheaper than similar sized bags of seed in the bird seed aisle. A high percentage of these mixes often consists of seeds that few birds other than maybe starlings, house sparrows, and grackles will eat. This leads to a high percentage of waste that can attract mice and rats if the wasted seeds are allowed to build up under the feeders. Wasted seed is also a waste of money; it’s better to spend a little more and provide seed that the birds you want to watch will actually eat.

2) Black oil sunflower seed: Almost every store that carries bird seed now carries black oil sunflower seeds. Most of your common feeder birds in the eastern U.S. will eat black oil sunflower seeds including chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, finches, and many others. Squirrels will also visit feeders with black oil sunflower seeds and the empty sunflower shells will need to be cleaned out from under the feeders periodically.

3) Striped sunflower seed: Some birds that eat black oil sunflower seeds can’t break open striped sunflower seeds because striped sunflowers seeds have a thicker shell. This can be a good thing if blackbirds, grackles, and house sparrows are eating all your black oil sunflower seeds. It can be not-so-good, if you really want to attract chickadees, purple finches, and some of the other species with smaller bills. Cardinals, blue jays, and titmice won’t have any problem with striped sunflower seeds. Again, squirrels may visit feeders with striped sunflowers seeds and the empty shells below the feeder will need to be cleaned up on a regular basis.

4) Thistle or nyger seed: These are the little, thin, black seeds that finches love. Goldfinches, purple finches, house finches, pine siskins, and a few other species that are more common in northern parts of the country than in Kentucky will go crazy over nyger seed. Make sure you use a thistle feeder or the seeds will spill out too quickly from the feeding ports. Don’t worry, feeding thistle or nyger seeds to the finches will not result in more thistles growing in your yard. Even though the seeds are often called thistle seeds, the plant that nyger seeds come from is not related to the familiar purple thistles that grow in yards and abandoned fields.


This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology. All of Shannon’s Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blogs can be found at https://shannontrimboli.com/posts/blog/.


Backyard Ecology: Creating Space for Pollinators and Wildlife
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I started Backyard Ecology as a way to share my love of exploring nature and learning about different plants and animals. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.

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