The nutrition of birds is more complex than that of other living beings, such as cats or dogs, that people often raise. Growing birds and caring for them is more demanding as the dietary plan must include nutrients and vitamins that can’t be obtained from nature. Usually, bird lovers buy bird seed mixtures with nuts and seeds appropriate for various bird species. Whether they choose the mixes for pet birds or wild birds, the nutritional value must cover their needs all year round, especially during winter or nesting time.
Seed supplements include combinations of cereals, nuts, and seeds that cater to the needs of different bird kinds and sizes. Choosing the correct type of bird food should be related to their natural diet and must differ based on weather or life cycle. During winter or periods of drought, birds have a hard time finding proper amounts of food, so bird enthusiasts create birdhouses where they put food for the birds to eat. Let’s see the most popular bird seed types and how they help birds develop healthily.
Feeding Birds the Right Seed Mixture
Birds don’t feed only on grains and seeds, as they find in nature other types of food like insects, grass, fruits, and nectar that complete their diet. Also, depending on their life cycle and season, birds change their diets to meet their current needs; they might need more vitamins and calcium as they hatch and grow, while adult birds need vigor and strength to migrate in spring and fall.
It’s important to know what type of bird seed to choose depending on what species you want to attract. However, to simplify the process, mixtures include the most common types of nuts, cereals, and seeds widely preferred by various species. Common ingredients include cracked corn, sunflower seeds, peanuts, millet, thistle seeds, and oats. No matter what combination you choose, remember to keep the birdfeeders clean. No bird will be attracted to a dirty tray of seeds that haven’t been replenished in a while. Keep a water tray by the side at all times to help birds eat and digest properly. Birds also like to bathe, so make sure you refill a large water bowl to help them clean their feathers from time to time.
Kids are particularly fond of feeding birds as they find it relaxing and interesting. In the winter, to help birds get over the cold weather, you can mix bird seed with some fat and create small balls that you can put in trees. This way, the birds will gain their much-needed fat and nutrients that will help them overcome the cold and cover the lack of natural food sources.
Most Common Seeds Found in Bird Food
As we previously mentioned, bird seed mixtures contain a variety of grains, seeds, and nuts, sources of important nutrients that birds need. The absolute favorite of all sorts of birds is the sunflower seed, liked by wild birds and pets alike. It’s nutritious and tasty, so that you will find it in almost any bag of seeds. Aside from the actual ingredients that birds can eat, most mixtures also contain fillers that aren’t very appealing and are often left behind. To avoid waste and mess caused by birds sorting through the grains, here is a short list of the most delicious and healthy seeds to look for when you buy bulk bird seed.
Two kinds are available: black oil and striped, equally tasty for birds. The first type has a thinner shell that is easier to crack open, while the striped ones have a thicker shell that might be challenging for smaller species to consume. Therefore, depending on the birds you want to feed, you must choose the right type. If you want to avoid the mess caused by the shells, you can opt for shelled sunflower seeds, but consider that they are more expensive and tend to spoil faster. Also, the hearts can develop dangerous bacteria if exposed to air and heat for a long time, so make sure you only offer a small amount that can be eaten in a day or two.
Another favorite treat, safflower, has a thick shell that is hard to crack by small birds but is preferred by doves, grosbeaks, native sparrows, and chickadees. One of its perks is that squirrels don’t like it, so you won’t risk favoring them to gather around the feeder. Just make sure you don’t put safflower in trays that collect moisture.
Nyjer or Thistle
These tiny, black, pointy seeds are ideal for small finches that like the oily texture. Lesser Goldfinches, American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Indigo Buntings, and Common Redpolls devour bird seed mixtures that include both Nyjer and thistle, the latter being often replaced by imported Nyjer that is less invasive and more resilient to moisture.
Quails, native sparrows, juncos, doves, cardinals, and towhees love white millet and prefer eating it directly from the ground. However, invasive birds like cowbirds or House Sparrows enjoy it, so people often avoid spreading too much on the soil to prevent unwanted birds from feasting on the seeds. Black oil sunflower is equally tasty and a better choice if you want to keep pests away.
Shelled and Cracked Corn
Corn is a favorite of quails, turkeys, crows, grouse, pheasants, jays, doves, ducks, and many other species. Unfortunately, cowbirds, geese, raccoons, and bears also enjoy it, so they tend to come around the areas where people put corn out for birds. Also, it is prone to getting infected with aflatoxins, which are dangerous in large amounts. You should never buy corn wrapped in plastic bags and always keep it from getting wet. Buttered corn is not destined for bird consumption, nor is red-dyed corn designed for planting.
Many birds like peanuts, including woodpeckers, jays, crows, and chickadees, but the downside is that bears, raccoons, and squirrels also enjoy a nutty snack. Humidity rapidly affects nuts and peanuts that harbor aflatoxins, so you must keep them from moisture and avoid feeding them on rainy days.
Rapeseed and Canary Seed
These two seeds are among the least favorite, but you will often find them in bird seed mixtures as fillers. Their main downside is they are avoided and remain in trays or on the ground, prone to developing bacteria. However, quails, juncos, finches, and doves tend to like them and rarely leave them behind.