Feeding the birds is a popular backyard hobby. For many, gardening and bird feeding go hand in hand. While not an expert, I do enjoy attracting our feathered friends to the backyard. Like most, I started out by only feeding in the winter. Now I feed year-round.
Birds need a steady supply of food, water and shelter and often struggle to find food in the winter months. Also, dry conditions can impact the amount of native food that’s available. Backyard bird feeding is one way we can help. There are many bird food mixes on the market, because various species prefer different grains. The seed with the most universal appeal is the black oil sunflower seed. If you are new to bird feeding, this is a good place to start. Or, if you feed a mixture of seeds, make sure it is one of the main ingredients. White proso millet is the second-most popular seed among birds.
As you become more interested in bird feeding you may want to use several types of feeders and locations, each stocked with a different seed or grain. Here’s a list of favorite seed mixes and the types of birds they attract.
▪ Sunflower seeds, all types: Cardinal, evening grosbeak and most finch species
▪ White proso millet: Rufous-sided towhee
▪ Mix of white and red proso millet, canary seed, fine cracked corn: Dark-eyed junco
▪ Mix of white and red proso millet: Many sparrow species and dark-eye junco
▪ Mix of peanut kernels, sunflower seeds of all types: Bluejay
▪ Mix of peanut kernels, oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds: Chickadee and tufted titmouse
▪ Mix of oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds: Red-breasted nuthatch
▪ Mix of hulled and black-striped sunflower seeds: Brown thrasher
▪ Mix of white and red proso millet, German (golden) millet: Red-winged blackbird
▪ Oil (black) sunflower seeds, white and red proso, German (golden) millet: Mourning dove
Many first-time bird feeders purchase less expensive mixes. A word of caution; they most often contain a high amount of milo, a BB-sized orange or white grain seed. Most common backyard birds do not like these seeds. You will attract birds using this type of mix, but you will most likely experience more waste because the birds kick the milo out of the feeder searching for the more desirable seeds.
In my backyard feeders I have started feeding more cracked sunflower seeds. The hull has been removed, reducing the trash around the feeder. The drawback is they are more expensive. I have two feeders. In the one closest to the house and located in a garden bed I feed the sunflower chips, while in a more open area I feed a mix, which creates hull waste. Each feeder attracts different birds, as some species are perch feeders while others like to scavenge the ground for a meal.
Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with the Kansas State University Research and Extension. To get your gardening questions answered on The Star’s KC Gardens blog by university extension experts, go to KCGardens.KansasCity.com.
If you want to go all in on attracting, caring for and watching birds, visit these local stores for birdseed, advanced pole systems, binoculars and even heated birdbaths, which provide much needed water to our fine feathered friends during cold winter days.
Also, check out their websites to get questions answered and tips on attracting specific types of birds.
▪ Backyard Bird Center, 6212 N.W. Barry Road, Kansas City, backyardbirdcenter.com
▪ Wild Bird Center of Independence, 4480 S. Noland Road, Independence, wildbird.com