This seed guide will keep birds happy through the winter

What kind of bird do you want to move into your garden?  The seed makes the difference.

What kind of bird do you want to move into your garden? The seed makes the difference.

Gardening and bird feeding go hand in hand for many. While I’m not an expert, I admit that I enjoy luring our feathered friends into the garden. Like most people, I started out feeding only in winter, but now I feed all year round.

Birds need constant supplies of food, water and shelter. Birds often struggle to find a source of food during the winter months. Arid conditions can also affect the amount of local food available. Bird feeding in the garden is one way we can help you.

There are many birdseed mixes on the market as different types prefer different grains. The seed with the most universal attraction for birds is the sunflower seed with black oil. If you are new to bird feeding and want to get started this is a start – it draws the greatest variety of birds into the feeder. Alternatively, if you are feeding a mixture of seeds, make sure it is one of the main ingredients. White proso millet is the second most popular seed at the feeding stations.

If you are interested in bird feeding, you may want to use multiple types of feeding stations and locations, each stocked with a different seed or grain. Here is a handy list of the most popular food sources for birds.

Sunflower seeds with black oil – excellent food for most species

Black-striped sunflower seeds – most species are used, preferred by tits and blue jays.

Gray-striped sunflower seeds – not as preferred as the other sunflower seeds.

White Proso millet – popular with Juncos, mourning doves and sparrows.

Proso red millet – can be a substitute for white millet.

Peanut kernels – eaten by many species, including blue jays.

Niger thistle seeds – preferred by finches, but also many other species.

Cracked corn – not so desirable. May attract other uninvited guests.

Tallow, an animal fat mixture – for high-energy birds such as woodpeckers, titmice and titmice.

Many bird feeders are buying cheaper mixes for the first time. A word of caution: These mixtures usually contain a high proportion of milo or grain orghum, a BB-sized orange or white grain seed. No common backyard bird prefers these seeds. You will attract birds with this type of mix, but you will most likely experience more litter as the birds throw the Milo out of the feeder in search of the more desirable seeds.

In my backyard feeders, I’ve started using more cracked sunflower seeds. The benefit of this seed is that the hull has been removed, which reduces the dirt around the feeder. The disadvantage of this seed is its cost as it is more expensive.

I have two feeders. In the one closest to the house, in a garden bed, I feed the sunflower chips. In a more open area, I use a compound feed that creates peel waste. Each feeder attracts different birds as some species are perch eaters while others like to search the bottom for a meal. Whichever type of feed you choose, you are sure to enjoy the sights and sounds of the birds in your garden.

Dennis Patton is a horticultural agent at Kansas State University Research and Extension. Do you have a question for him or other college expansion experts? Email them to

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