How to Choose Bird Seed
When it comes to feeding your garden birds, there’s an incredible selection of bird seed to choose from. Each blend has its own recipe and ingredients. Here are a few of the most common bird seed ingredients you’ll come across and the birds that like to eat them:
Niger seeds are small and black and have a high oil content. Goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches, nuthatches, sparrows and tits are all regularly seen tucking into niger seed. However, because niger seeds are so small, a special niger seed bird feeder is required.
Sunflower seeds are enjoyed by blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches and house sparrows. They have a high oil and fat content, making them a great food source throughout the whole of the year.
Tits and greenfinches love to eat peanuts. Robins, dunnocks and wrens are also partial to them. Peanuts in a seed mix should be little more than granules. If you’re choosing a whole peanut bird feed, it’s important to put it in a dedicated peanut feeder, which will prevent birds from choking on bigger chunks of nut.
Because of their hard outer shell, safflower seeds are preferred by birds with a strong beak, such as the house finch. Squirrels don’t like safflower seeds so they’re a good option if you’re trying to deter these animals from your bird feeders.
Millet seeds are a favourite amongst doves, dunnocks, finches and sparrows. These seeds are lower in fat than some other varieties. But they are very nutritious, containing high levels of protein. And they’re easy to digest too.
Blackbirds and robins love flaked maize. It has the highest oil and energy content of all cereals and it’s perfect for feeding trays.
Why is it important to choose quality bird seed?
The quality of a bird seed depends on the ingredients used. The best seed mixes contain plenty of sunflower seeds, peanuts and flaked maize.
Cheaper, lower quality bird seeds contain a lot of “filler”. These are seeds and grains, like wheat, dried rice and lentils. This filler content attracts bigger birds, such as rooks and jackdaws, but is often bypassed by smaller birds.
Low quality feed may even include dog biscuits that you’ll see as pink or green lumps in the mix. These are only edible to birds when soaked so should definitely be avoided.
Choosing the best quality bird seed allows you to provide a nutritious meal for your garden birds. It will also see them returning again and again for another tasty treat.
Common Garden Birds and What They Like to Eat
A wide variety of birds visit gardens up and down the country. They’re most likely to visit places that provide shelter, water and food. Their primary diet is made up of the seeds, berries, insects and invertebrates that can be found in most well-tended gardens.
But birds, just like humans, like a little variety. When it comes to treats, not all birds like to eat the same things. Each bird species comes with its own dietary requirements and preferences.
If you’re looking to attract birds to your garden, take a look at our list of common garden birds and the foods they like to eat:
The red breasted robin appears in gardens all year round, not just in winter at the legend would have us believe. Robins love to eat mealworms. You can grow your own but this is quite an involved process so buying them is an easier, if more expensive, option. Mild grated cheese also proves popular.
The goldfinch’s red and black markings make it an impressive garden visitor. These birds have a particular soft spot for nyger seeds. In fact, it’s the addition of nyger seeds to feed mixes that have made goldfinches a more common sight in our gardens.
Dunnocks are small, brown birds that tend to hop around on the ground. They like to stay close to cover and can usually be found under hedges. Dunnocks are most likely to peck at millet seeds left on the ground, under the bird feeder.
Collared doves are soft grey in colour with the black and white collar that gives them their name. Particular favourites for the collared dove include uncooked rice, wheat and barley grains.
Blackbirds are seen all year round. The like to eat insects, worms and berries. Flaked maize seems to be a blackbird’s favourite part of a seed mix whilst dog food can act as a tasty substitute for worms when the ground is dry during summer months.
The blue tit’s blue and yellow markings make it instantly recognisable. This tiny bird weighs just 11g. It likes to eat sunflower seeds and chopped, unsalted peanuts as well as juicy mealworms.
Learning what wild birds like to eat will help you to create a veritable banquet for your feathered garden guests. Provide a variety of food all year round and your feeders will be a popular gathering spot for a host of garden bird species.