Choosing bird seed | Living the Country Life

Choosing bird seed

Birds appreciate food at the feeder all year long. To attract the species you want to see and deter those you don't, you have to choose your bird seed wisely.

Radio interview source: Tom Lokitus, Product Manager, Lebanon Seaboard Corporation

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

Some families choose not to feed the birds in their yard, as the birds stay fat and happy from cleaning up spilled feed from the barn. However, if you choose to feed the birds on your property, you should try to choose the right seed.
Tom Lokitus is the product manager of a bird seed company. He says either black oil or striped sunflower seeds will attract the most species. Cardinals, finches, nuthatches, and others will eat from hoppers, trays, or tube feeders. If you're concerned about the mess that shells make when they fall to the ground, use hulled sunflower seeds,  sold as hearts or chips.
Lokitus advises staying away from mixes that include milo or red millet if you're picky about what comes to dinner. 
"Testing has shown that many colorful songbirds aren't as attracted to those seeds," he says. "You often get mourning doves, grackles, crows.  I used some recently to test against some of the premium mixes I regularly use, and I did get a new visitor – I got a skunk. What happened was a lot of the songbirds will flick those seeds to the ground, and you can get different animals, unwanted visitors like a skunk coming in your yard."
To entice a specific species, offer their favorite food. For instance, finches love nyger seed. Peanuts attract blue jays. Cardinals love safflower seed, but squirrels don't, so that's a plus. Corn will attract many species, but birds with smaller beaks may have trouble cracking whole kernels. 
Lokitus also recommends trying high-quality seed mixes with nuts and dried fruits to entice new birds to your yard. 
"It's almost like what foods humans look for," says Lokitus. "The high nut content will provide protein and fat craved by many birds, while the fruits will provide carbohydrates and sugars. You'll also draw some non-seed eating birds because of the fruit such as robins and orioles, which are usually highly-desired by backyard bird feeders."
Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens like to dine on suet made from beef fat with seeds, berries, and nuts.  

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