Buying Wild Bird Seed
Bird seed for backyard feeders is available as bags of a single kind of seed or as bags of various seed mixtures. Begin with a 5-pound bag of a seed mixture to appeal to the widest variety of potential bird guests. Eventually you may prefer to buy seed in more economical 50 pound bags.
Seed mixes vary widely in content and quality. Package labels list the ingredients in order of their percentage in the mix by weight. Look for an analysis of the crude protein, fat and fiber content of the mix. The higher its protein and fat content, the greater the proportion of the more desirable seeds. Sunflower and white millet seeds are very popular with many song birds, while milo, wheat, oats and yellow millet are less popular and are considered “filler grains”.
So try to buy mixtures that have high percentages of better seeds (striped sunflower and black-oil sunflower seeds, white millet, whole and cracked corn, safflower, and canary seed.) They cost more money, but there is ultimately less waste on the ground.
Here’s a tip: If your seed mix contains lots of giant striped sunflower seeds, place a feeder nearby containing smaller black oil sunflower seed for birds that have difficulty handling the larger seeds.
For lots more information about wild bird food see the file Food for Wildlife in Yardner's Tool Shed.
Mixing Your Own Seed Recipe
Once you’ve observed what your birds like to eat, reduce waste by mixing your own bird seed. Buy individual bird seed varieties that are favorites, and combine them. A mixture of 1/3 cracked corn, 1/3 black oil sunflower seed and 1/3 white millet will satisfy 90% of the birds and there is no filler seed to go to waste. White millet is fairly expensive, so you may want to adjust the formula. Modify this common mixture to 2 pounds cracked corn, 2 pounds black oil sunflower seed, and 1 pound of white millet.
Cracked corn is available in two grades, coarse and fine, to accommodate both large and small birds. Whole corn is too large for most backyard birds; but the coarse grade usually contains some kernels of whole corn. The whole corn will certainly not go to waste if you have squirrels, chipmunks, crows or doves in your yard. Of course, if you do not want to attract these animals, do not use any corn.