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josie's avatar

In your opinion, what is the best bird food?

Asked by josie (27940points) August 26th, 2010

I live in the Great Lakes region (Ohio). My condo has a patio, where I have a flower garden, herb garden, my beloved grill, and a bird feeder. I buy bird food anywhere I happen to be where they sell bird food or where it is on sale. Sometimes the package will say that this particular mix of seeds will attract certain birds. I do not pay a lot of attention to that, I just keep filling the bird feeder, and the birds (and squirrels and chipmunks) keep coming and eating it. I am starting to think that maybe I should apply more science and less shopping convenience to my selection of bird food. Is there a specific seed, or mix of seeds that is inarguably the best for my part of the country?

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21 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Depends on the critters you want to attract. I like a mix of cheap seed with the sunflower seeds which attracts more Cardinals and Cedar Wax Wings and other larger pretty birds and also more squirrels though!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I buy the cheap stuff and mix it with sunflower seeds.I also make “suet cakes” for them in the winter.
I have one bird feeder at my house and I feed the birds on my walks near the woods.They know where the piles are and will come flying in when I whistle. :)

Austinlad's avatar

The birds in my neighborhood flock to a little bird feeder I have hanging from a tree and devour any kind of inexpensive seed I put out. It’s great entertainment for my cat Sy, and not even one bird has tweeted me a complaint.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I start with black oil sunflower seed for general consumption. Niger thistle seed for the finches. Suet mixes for the woodpeckers and nut hatches. Don’t use regular suet, get the prepared blocks. Corn for the squirrels. There’s also a suet mix called bark butter that alot of birds really go for.

john65pennington's avatar

I have tried several brands. you would think most of the mixes and seed content would be the same, right? my birds have their own opinion of which seed they like the best. and, the grand winner is…..........WalMart. i buy the 20 lb. bag for about 7.50 and the seed attracts all types of birds, especially cardinals. i guess all of us are chosey and this also applies to birds.

john65pennington's avatar

Austinland, sir, would you understand their language, if one bird were to voice a complaint?

serafina's avatar

Do you have Fat Balls Birds love these.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Yes, some types of bird seed/food attract specific types of birds. @Adirondackwannabe has given several great examples. If this is something that you are truly interested in, do so research on the internet regarding Ohio birds, or invest in a good bird book, or even join a local birding club.

You can also invest in feeders that are designed to prevent the messier birds, like Starlings who tend to toss the food out as grab at it, and ones that prevent squirrels from climbing up and getting the food. I have a feeder that only attracts Hummingbirds, as well as a Butterfly Bush in the backyard. The Hummingbirds return every year in the fall during their migration…territorial little critters, but fun to watch.

Austinlad's avatar

I don’t know, @john65pennington, but it would be a real tweet to hear from one of the birds I’m supporting.

Coloma's avatar

I have had to give up feeding the birds and only have hummingbird feeders now.

The squirrels, ( gray during the day and flying squirrels at night ) and the deer, clean me out.

I had feeders suspended 6 feet up ( I have to be able to reach them! lol ) and the deer rear up and paw them till they flip and spill or break!

For years I fed a millet mix, (wild bird mix) and black oil sunflowers seed.

Then I went to only sunflower as the majority of birds in my area ( Nuthatches, Titmice, finches ) preferred the sunflower seed.

One thing you can do is mix peanut butter and cornmeal and drill a small log with 1 inch holes and stuff the mixture in. This attracts many birds but, squirrels go ‘nuts’ over it too.

Woodpeckers love it!

As it is, lots of birds eat my geese feed, a mix of poultry lay crumbles and scratch grains, so the birds still get plenty on my mountain.

Finches, towhees, doves and titmice all eat the chicken feed, along with the gluttonous wild turkeys, sooo, I still feed the bird planet by default. lol

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Here’s a good place to look. www.wbu.com/barkbutter
Wild Birds Unlimited is a chain in NY. I don’t know if it’s in your area.

Trillian's avatar

@josie There really isn’t a “universal” best. I keep a variety for the different birds that come around, and different feeders. Hummingbirds like sugar water. Also, since you’re in the north, look into a couple suet feeders. They’re made of really thin metal, like cages. You put in the suet cake and hang it up somewhere. The birds love it. And it gives them the fat that they need to stay warm in the winter. You should start puting it out as soon as the weather will support it. The larger seeds should be nice and oily, again the fat helps the birds. You can smear peanut butter into open pine cones and then roll in seeds and toss them around.
I love feeding the birds and squirrels. Whn I lived in Flatwoods I had some squirrells that would come up on the porch for the nuts I gave them in the evening.

Frenchfry's avatar

I was going to say suet as well.

Cruiser's avatar

@Coloma I have had the same problems with my squirrels cleaning out the feeder in a day. I have mine on a shepherds hook probably 5 feet up and the obligatory squirrel guard on the post and I still would see these squirrels hanging from the feeder munching away. I thought they figured how to circumvent the guard and still climb up…but one Sunday I saw this squirrel run and leap the 5 feet right up to the feeder! HS I have flying squirrels too! lol! So this winter I guess I will have to have a feeder on a high pole to keep my birdies happy!

shelley's avatar

I think animals domestic or wild should eat what they naturally eat in the wild as this is what their stomachs are designed to digest thus being the healthiest option, and should attract the birds as that’s what will taste best to them. My suggestion is to do some research on the net to identify the birds in your area, research what the particular breed eats, and put it in a bird feeder designed to limit access to other animals. I’m sure your local bird breeders will be able to advise you on this.

Coloma's avatar

I do grow sunflowers though and leave the seed heads attached for the birds.
Much easier and natural.

@shelley

Wild songbirds are comprised of only two types, seed eaters and insect eaters.

Seed eaters already capitalize on any seed available in nature, although they have their preferences.

Any seed offered has no effect on their digestive systems as they can find wild millet, sunflower seeds, etc. in their travels.

Many species also eat fruits and find those on their own as well, so offering oranges or other fruits to Orioles and Tanagers is a non-issue, as they naturally seek fruit in their diet.

Most everyone has probably had experiences with Jays and Crows stealing cat food.

I used to have a pair of Scrub Jays that could clean out a bowl of dry cat food, stashing it away, in an hour.

Birds are opportunists just like we are.

Taco Bell isn’t a part of our food chain, but we eat it anyway because it is provided for us. lol

Bird ‘breeders’ have nothing to do with wild birds.

shelley's avatar

Dear Coloma – following your ‘corrections’ on my answer:

You’re correct, we do eat Taco Bell because its available, but a bowl of vegies is so much healthier as vegies are a natural source of food for humans and the same applies for any animal. I’m sure that the birds eat your dry cat food and probably thoroughly enjoy it, however they are filled with preservatives. I’m sure no harm would be caused however my point is, you can feed them what you wish and they will probably eat it, however if you feed them their natural food source, it will maintain their health 100%.

..and also, bird breeders would have sound knowledge on birds in general.

However in anycase, I appreciate your opinion but you should let me have mine also.

Scooby's avatar

I just fill em up with peanuts :-/ they love em, even through the summer! that & lard in the winter (animal fat)

Coloma's avatar

@shelley

I did not mean to come across as correcting, just sharing my knowledge, being a once upon a time avid birder and wildlife rescue volunteer.

There are lots of myths surrounding birds, such as handling nestlings will cause rejection and rice will bloat and kill birds, etc. All not true.

No issue with your opinion, just pointing out that store bought birdseed IS a natural feed, all ingredients found in the wild. I have wild brown millet that grows around my area.

Not any different than us eating granola. We may not have oats and almonds outside our back doors but the ingredients are all ‘natural’ and easily found in nature even if we do not harvest them ourselves.
Of course Taco bell and cat food are not optimum for people or birds, but again, the opportunistic nature of all creatures. lol

Offering commercial bird seeds and nuts, fruits, etc. is not in any way harmful, and actually beneficial during harsh winters.

Infact, I participated some years ago in a feeder watch program through Cornell lab of Ornithology and by keeping feeders this lends itself to a good count on winter migratory species that might be difficult to count without the lure of a food source.

Of course, if one is feeding lots of birds hygeine is imperative and cleaning and disinfecting feeders should be part of that routine or you can do more harm than good.

I had to stop all feeding one winter after an outbreak of avian pox which is highly contagious.

I still maintain a bird ‘breeder’, unless familiar with wild species would be offering species specific advice. Parrots have differing diet needs than wild Goldfinches.

Best would be to consult a local wildlfie rescue or Audobon society to get the scoop on the species in ones area.

shelley's avatar

Fair call on all of the above and you sound like a bird expert. My answer was pretty general, my point being ‘if a specific species in the neighourhood eats sunflower seeds in particular, then it would be best to put sunflower seeds to attract them and offer the most satisfying and healthy meal for them’

Coloma's avatar

@shelley
Absolutely, specific seeds attract specific species of birds. :-)

I wouldn’t go so far as ‘expert’ but, I have retained a lot of knowledge from years gone by, I have forgotten a lot too. lol

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