What is the Best Bird Food?

Putting out bird food can boost populations of common, generalist species at the expense of others that are struggling: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/25/feeding-birds-garden-boost-dominant-species

Consider planting native species and providing other habitat features such as water, as a possible alternative.

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I will definitely take these things into consideration.

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groats, cereals, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, hemp, pumpkin, nuts, dried fruit and prepared seed mixtures for wild birds; for many birds animal fat (lard or tallow) as well as seeds and nuts flooded with melted fat are a delicacy

In our upper Midwest USA feeder system we use primarily black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer thistle, peanuts (in and out of shell–in-shell attracts Blue Jays), and suet. Also, we make nectar for Hummingbirds (and Baltimore Orioles and House Finches drink it) with sugar and water. We have an Oriole feeder with strawberry jelly (we hear grape is fine, too). If you don’t want as many House Sparrows, maybe don’t use seed mixes with millet, corn, or oats. MIxes with dried fruit may attract birds, too, but seem to cost more.

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Last year, I started putting out live meal worms in a raised feeder in my condo’s patio yard. All was fine for a while. Then, for the first time in 15 years, I started seeing rats in my patio. Maybe they were there before, but the presence of such desirable food brought them out in the open in daytime. :confused:

So, just consider what other creatures may be attracted to your feeder and think if you have a strategy to deal with that.

I have never had such problems with nectar feeders (for hummingbirds, e.g.) but I also don’t live in bear territory.

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Is it true about nyjer seeds for goldfinch?

I remember one year, a “volunteer” sunflower appered in my plot at the community garden – presumably, whomever had that plot the previous year had grown sunflowers. That one sunflower produced enough black oil sunflower seeds to fill a small feeder, and I had a Chestnut-backed Chickadee who came regularly – the only bird at that small, window-mounted feeder. Since the sunflower was a one-off, I did not put out the feeder the following year – and then was sad when I saw that same chickadee come looking for it. It remembered my window as a food location.

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I’ve had some mixed experiences with nyjer seeds. Sometimes, the birds go crazy at the feeder and pick it clean within hours, and other times it just sits there and gets moldy after a while and I have to throw it all away. I think it might have to do with how fresh the seed is. I’ve had better success with bags bought at stores with high turnover (e.g. big box stores) vs. smaller pet food stores where it might sit on the shelf for longer. I’ve gone to buying smaller bags so I don’t have to store them as long and also started storing it in the freezer and that seems to help if you have the freezer space to do that.

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The hummingbirds do that for me. They migrate so once they’re gone I take down the nectar feeders and replace them with seed feeders. If I’m late getting the nectar feeders back out in spring, the little hummers coming back to my yard will knock on my windows to let me know it’s time to put them back out.

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I’m in UK so talking about Carduelis carduelis.

White millet is the bulk of many inexpensive seed mixes and is a favorite of house sparrows. If you’re in an urban or suburban area, attracting them, especially in large numbers, generally means pushing away other species. I live in the north-east US, have gotten familiar with individual native birds and have had cardinals recognize me. I would see them all the time. They would come to a nearby tree or bush and wait for me to throw a peanut or piece of walnut. On a walk in my neighborhood, this happened, as was usual, someone saw and was amazed at just seeing the cardinal at all. She told me she had been going through something like 20lbs of inexpensive mixed seed per week for years. She would have 100s of house sparrows come to her busy feeder all day, but despite males being an eye-catching red, couldn’t remember the last time she saw a cardinal!

In less-populated areas, house sparrows may not have that strong of a presence and many seeds may be great, but I have seen far too many attacks, injuries and deaths from this invasive species to recommend anything that encourages them at all. For seed, I’ve taken to upside-down, cling feeders, thick wires to interfere with their hovering, mirrored films, and/or using safflower seed that they don’t particularly like or striped sunflower seeds that have a thick enough shell to be difficult for them. For feeding wildlife that can’t access these, I am outside nearby to ensure that no house sparrows or starlings are fed. This is not easy, as they are bolder and more aggressive than native species. If the invasive birds manage to get anything while I’m there, they are emboldened and others notice and are emboldened as well. Afterwards, I do what I can to be sure nothing that they would eat is left behind.

I think native wildlife is worth the extra effort of avoiding subsidizing species that attack, kill them, and compete with them over arthropods to feed their young. If this can’t be avoided with feeders, I think it maybe better to concentrate only on suitable habitat and native plants.

Nyjer is a great thing to have for goldfinches, but I wouldn’t put it in the blend, just solo in a special feeder.

Nyger goes bad quickly so it’s better to buy it in the amount you think you will use in 1 or 2 months from a place that is conscious of their stock levels.

Finches tend to move around quite a bit so unless it’s nesting season, where your population is going to be more static (ie the birds that are physically breeding near you), you can see quite a bit of variance in how many turn up at your feeder (in a winter I’ll get days where just a few birds show up, and other times when I count 50 at the feeders). So it is important to check your feeder periodically and if you are in a low period for them, use the opportunity to give your feeders a cleanup.

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Not a big fan of nyger as it seems to never get fully consumed and since it can go bad I have to dump the remainder from the feeder. It’s also rather expensive. But it does bring in goldfinches and pine siskins in my area (SW US).

Suet seems to bring a good diversity of species and gets used up quickly especially in winter. Another winter food I’ll buy is a small seed block for the ground foragers.

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My favorite combination is black oil sunflower seeds, suet, and Lyric fruit and nut. The Lyric fruit and nut is expensive, but I just mix it in with the sunflower seeds and sometimes a special seed mix from Agway. We get (at various times of the year): cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, red-wing blackbirds, sparrows, blue jays, grackles, juncos, hairy, downy, and red-bellied woodpeckers, goldfinches, titmice (titmouses?–there seems to be debate about the plural), nuthatches, the occasional flicker, and in the spring only, Baltimore orioles (when they arrive, I put out oranges). Sometimes something unusual will also show up, but these are the usual suspects. Oh, and of course, squirrels and chipmunks–we like them too.

(Doves–I forgot the doves.)

This has been one of my personal social-media campaigns lately: putting out the message that “cheaper” is not necessarily the most important consideration.