KC Gardens

Feeding the backyard birds

Bids on feeder

Tip of the Week

Feeding the birds is a popular backyard hobby. For many, gardening and bird feeding go hand and hand. I will not claim to be an expert about bird feeding, but I must admit that I enjoy attracting our feathered friends to the backyard. Like most, I started out by only feeding in the winter. But now I feed year-round, as it brings more interest to my garden.

Birds are just like us, they need a steady supply of food, water and shelter. Birds often struggle to find a food source in the winter months. Also, last summer’s drought has impacted the amount of native food available for the birds. Backyard bird feeding is one way we can help out. There are many bird food mixes on the market, because various species often prefer different grains in their diet. The grain or seed with the most universal appeal to birds is the black oil sunflower seed. If you are new to bird feeding and want to get started, this is an excellent seed to start with — it attracts the greatest diversity of birds to the feeder. 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 at the feeding stations.

As you become more interested in bird feeding you may want to streamline your birding buffet. By that I mean you may want to use several types of feeders and locations, each stocked with a different seed or grain. Just like some people prefer Mexican food (my favorite), Italian or an American hamburger and fries, so do birds. Below is a handy chart of favorite food sources for birds.  Sunflower seeds, all types: Cardinal, evening grosbeak, and most finch species  White proso millet: Rufous sided towhee  White and red proso millet, canary seed, fine cracked corn: Dark-eyed junco  White and red proso millet: Many sparrow species  Peanut kernels and sunflower seeds of all types: Bluejay  Peanut kernels, oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds: Chickadee and tufted titmouse  Oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds: Red-breasted nuthatch  Hulled and black-striped sunflower seeds: Brown thrasher  White and red proso millet plus German (golden) millet: Red-winged blackbird  Oil (black) sunflower seeds, white and red proso plus German (golden) millet: Mourning dove

Many first time bird feeders purchase less expensive mixes. A word of caution about these mixes; they most often contain a high amount of milo, a BB-sized orange or white grain seed. If you notice from the above list, no common backyard bird prefers these seeds. So the message is, 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 in search for the more desirable seeds.

In my own personal backyard feeders I have started feeding more cracked sunflower seeds. The advantage of this seed is that the hull has been removed, which greatly reduces the trash around the feeder. The drawback is that the sunflower chips 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 the 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.

I oftentimes wonder if the expense of feeding the birds it worth it. But just this weekend I realized it is, as I noticed my 17 year old Xbox-crazed son standing at the window watching the birds fly to and from the feeder. If it could grab his attention and get him to realize that nature is important then I have made progress. Then I realized I still have a long way to go when he uttered this statement, “There sure are a lot of pigeon-looking birds around the feeder.” No son, those are not pigeons, those are called doves! Oh well … at least he was watching the birds feed instead of sitting on the couch with his thumbs glued to the game controllers.


  1. 1 year, 2 months ago

    Haha interesting choice, but I think the best choice when It comes to bird feeder you can’t go wrong with black sunflower and nyjer. The problem with mixed seed is few birds eat rolled oats, especially small birds. Smaller bird prefer smaller seeds, ie. nyjer however they require a special type of feeder ie:http://www.wildbirdfeeders.co.uk/shop/bird-feeders/nyjer

  2. Kansas City

    1 year, 2 months ago

    I’ve also found that a heated birdbath is a huge draw. I’ve seen 8 robins sitting around it in the dead of winter.

  3. 1 year, 2 months ago

    Good comments. Agree black sunflower is a great choice. The birds are having fun in the snow this morning. Dennis

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