Spring signals the return of our feathered friends, back from spending their winter in warmer climes. While many people look forward to welcoming these birds back with cakes of suet and seed, with each new year we invariably see even more joining the ranks of birders worldwide.
All you need to make these chirpers happy is some bird food and a safe spot to pile it on. Most people choose a feeder or a stand for the latter, but when it comes to filling it with food, there are several options.
Before you fill that feeder with a random assortment of ballast, it’s wise to learn about the birds in your region, as well as how and what they like to eat. Putting out the right meal will help you attract even more beautiful birds to your backyard.
That’s the best part of being a birder, isn’t it?
Here’s a list of popular bird foods, and what types of birds you might attract by putting them outside:
As the Spruce reports, many types of birds like cracked corn, typically the larger, more voracious species who will peck at kernels on the ground.
These are the birds you might expect to see:
- Gambel’s, mountain and California quail
- Northern bobwhites
- Wild turkeys
- White-winged doves and Eurasian collared-doves
- Red junglefowl
- Yellow-headed blackbirds and red-winged blackbirds
- Rock pigeons
- Canyon, California, eastern and spotted towhees
- Mexican, green, gray, Steller’s and western scrub-jays
- House sparrows
- Dark-eyed juncos
- Mallards and other duck species
- Ring-necked pheasants
Sprinkling cracked kernels in an open area can attract several birds who will make quick work of the corn, while sprinkling cracked corn under shrubs and bushes can attract species who prefer a little privacy, like towhees and quail.
Corn is inexpensive and enjoyed by many birds but be forewarned, it can also attract other wildlife like squirrels and raccoons, which you may not want scurrying around.
5. Sunflower Seeds
Many birds enjoy sunflower seeds, whether cracking open the black-oil or striped varieties, or munching on shelled seeds.
Black-oil sunflower seeds are popular amongst nearly all birds. According to Bird Watching HQ, these seeds have a higher oil content than striped seed, as well as being less expensive. Their thinner shells are also more easily cracked open by birds
Striped sunflower seeds are the type that humans snack on. They are not as popular amongst birds, and more expensive when compared to the black-oil variety, but striped sunflower seeds are still effective in attracting birds to your feeder.
If you don’t want a mess of shells around your feeder, hulled sunflower seeds are a good option, and bound to be wildly popular amongst your feathered friends.
4. White Millet
As All Abut Birds reports, small round white millet seeds will attract ground-feeding birds including quails, native American sparrows, doves, towhees, juncos, and cardinals. It can also be set out on draining tray feeders, a few inches off the ground.
Millet seeds are eaten by most all birds who also enjoy black-oil sunflower seeds, along with blackbirds and House Sparrows. People who want to avoid attracting these already overpopulous species to their feeders may do well to opt for sunflower seeds, instead.
As Bird Watcher’s Digest reports, white safflower seeds are the favorite food of the Northern Cardinal, and typically passed over by pesky squirrels and blackbirds.
Birds that enjoy safflower seeds typically like it dry and crunchy. The seeds will absorb water from rain or dew, and may ward more birds away than bring them in. It’s best to place it in a tray or feeder, off the ground.
2. Nyger or Thistle
American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, and other small finches, as well as Indigo Buntings, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls enjoy these tiny, black, needle-like seeds, All About Birds reports.
Where thistle is considered an invasive species, nyger provides a similar oily, black seed, without the worry of proliferation as birds carry them off.
Birds enjoy eating peanuts in thew shell or out. According to Inverse, peanuts will attract jays, crows, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, and many others. Like other popular foods, they can also attract squirrels and raccoons.
Similar to corn and safflower, rain or moisture can soften peanuts and make them inedible to picky birds. It’s best not to overfill your feeder or broadcast them too generously to avoid waste.
If you have a feeder to fill with these bird-approved foods, we can almost guarantee you’ll soon be the chitter of the neighborhood, with feathered friends stopping by at all hours of the day.
Even if you don’t have a feeder, you can still make due with some common household objects. Tie string to a pine cone smeared with crunchy peanut butter and hang it up on a tree branch or near a window. Then, sit back, and see who shows up first.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.