Those new to birding or feeding birds in their own backyard may be quickly overwhelmed by the many options of birdseed to choose from, not knowing which type to choose and what type of birdseed birds actually love. If you want to increase your chances of having birds visit your yard, then this guide to birdseed types will go over the most popular options, which type of birdseed is right for your backyard, based on the species of birds you want to attract, time of year, and your budget, in addition to the type of pests and birds you don’t want to visit your feeders.

Most Popular Birdseed Options

Whether you order your birdseed online or you shop at your local feed store, seeing all the different options available can make it difficult to find the right type of seed based on the species of birds you want to attract and the ones you want to repel. You may even want to simply switch from the current birdseed you use because birds aren’t eating the seeds, or the seed you use is attracting squirrels.

Here, you’ll find information that includes the nutritional content for each type of seed, the type of species it will attract, and which type of birdseed birds rarely eat.

The type of birdseed you should use can vary from region to region, or it can even depend on the time of year. I recommend rotating different birdseed and using a variety of seeds in your feeders, then monitor the feeders for a few days to see which seed works best.


Sunflower Seeds

Closeup of bird

If you only want to offer one type of birdseed, then pick sunflower seeds. These seeds are affordable and dozens of species love them. There are three different types of sunflower seeds to choose from, and each type has different uses and advantages.

Black-oil: This is the most popular option of in the shell sunflower seeds and almost all species of birds will devour them. This is not the variety of sunflower seeds that humans eat. It was initially developed to harvest because of its high oil content, however, it was soon discovered that birds loved them. This variety of sunflower seed has a high oil content and it’s more affordable compared to the striped sunflower seeds that people eat. It’s also not as messy as the striped sunflower seed.

In terms of nutritional value, it has a forty percent fat content, twenty percent carbs, and sixteen percent protein.

The species that are attracted to this type of seed include:

  • Grackles
  • Doves
  • Blackbirds
  • House sparrows
  • Juncos
  • Nutcrackers
  • Finches
  • Grosbeaks
  • Chickadees
  • Titmice
  • Nuthatches
  • Woodpeckers
  • Jays
  • Cardinals

This is not a complete list of the species that love this variety of sunflower seed, considering most species do, however, these are the common species that you’ll find visiting your feeder.

Striped: This variety of sunflower seed is much larger than the black-oil variety and it’s the same type of seed that people eat, which is what makes it more expensive. When it comes to birds, these seeds are not quite as popular as black-oil since it has a stronger and thicker shell, which can make it tough for smaller species of birds to crack. Because of this, you can choose this type of seed if you want to attract certain species of larger birds. As an example, house finches and house sparrows can quickly overtake a yard, preventing other species of birds from visiting your feeders, but they’re not able to open this type of birdseed. If you want to encourage other species to visit your yard, then you can keep one dedicated striped sunflower bird feeder and attract the following birds:

  • Nuthatches
  • Titmice
  • Cardinals
  • Jays
  • Chickadees
  • Grackles

And other species of birds that have beaks that are strong enough to open this type of sunflower seed.

This variety contains twenty-six percent fat, eighteen percent carbs, and fifteen percent protein.

Hulled sunflower: This type refers to seeds that have been hulled. It can also be referred to as sunflower kernels or sunflower chips. Since this type is much easier to eat than the shelled variety, almost every species of bird will eat it. Many birders dedicate several of their feeders to hulled sunflower seeds, which will invite a wide variety of species into your yard. Since the shell has been removed, these seeds are more expensive compared to the other two varieties. Many birders will choose this variety since it significantly cuts down on waste and mess.

Birds that love this seed include:

  • Grackles
  • Doves
  • Blackbirds
  • Towhees
  • Sparrows
  • Juncos
  • Nuthatches
  • Titmice
  • Chickadees
  • Finches
  • Goldfinches
  • Wrens
  • Grosbeaks
  • Jays
  • Cardinals


Safflower Seeds

This seed is a little smaller than the black-oil sunflower seed and it features a tough shell, despite its small size. Most birders refer to it as a miracle seed since most pests don’t enjoy it. For some birders, their biggest problems tend to be squirrels and different types of black birds. But both squirrels and blackbirds will not touch this seed. However, most backyard birds love them. These seeds can be a great option if you don’t have a squirrel proof bird feeder. In terms of nutritional value, these seeds contain thirty-eight percent fat, thirty-four percent carbs, and sixteen percent protein.

Birds that love safflower seeds include:

  • Doves
  • Nuthatches
  • Chickadees
  • Titmice
  • Finches
  • Grosbeaks
  • Cardinals
  • Jays

Thistle

Thistle

For many birders, goldfinches are a huge favorite and they’re very interesting to observe, which is why some people will go to great lengths to carry seeds that attract them. Because of their smaller beaks, they can only eat very small seeds, which makes feeding thistle to this species the perfect choice.

This seed is tiny and black and commonly found in India or Ethiopia. Thistle seeds aren’t actually related to thistle weeds so you don’t have to worry about the seeds growing into weeds. Additionally, these seeds are sterilized via a heat process, so they are unable to grow. Unfortunately, they’re very vulnerable to spoiling. It’s common for birds to turn up their beaks at the seeds if they’re not fresh. Because of this, I recommend only purchasing this type of seed from a bird food specialty store. You will also need to use a special type of bird feeder, one that specializes in distributing smaller seed varieties.

In terms of nutrition, the thistle seeds offer thirty-six percent fat, twenty-one percent protein, and thirteen percent carbs.


Peanuts

Peanuts are the perfect choice for a variety of feeders and bird species. Birds love eating then and they provide a great source of both protein and fat, both of which are essential for birds during the winter months.

Peanuts offer a nutritional profile of forty-nine percent fat, nineteen percent carbs, and twenty-six percent protein.

When you buy peanuts for your feeders, make sure that they’re unsalted and roasted.

Peanuts can be offered out of the shell or shelled. The biggest difference here is which type of birds you want to attract since most types of small species of birds are unable to crack the thick shell.

Only a few species of birds will eat peanuts that are still in a shell. This includes larger birds such as:

  • Woodpeckers
  • Magpies
  • Grackles
  • Jays
  • Cardinals
  • Crows

Shelled peanuts are a better choice if you want to feed a wider variety of bird species such as:

  • Grackles
  • Ravens
  • Magpies
  • Crows
  • Cowbirds
  • Starlings
  • Bushtits
  • Titmice
  • Chickadees
  • Grosbeaks
  • Nuthatches
  • Jays
  • Cardinals

Shelled peanuts can also be used in more styles of bird feeders and are commonly used in suet and seed mixes. Unfortunately, shelled peanuts are more prone to mold growth and rotting, should they get wet, in which case, they will need to be tossed out.

White Proso Millet

This is a favorite food among birds that ground feed. It’s usually not sold individually, however, it’s often included in several types of birdseed mixes. There are a few different types of millet to choose from, however, white proso is the best and more popular option. If you have a mix of birdseed that contains millet, then I don’t recommend hanging a bird feeder. Instead, try using a tray or a type of hopper feeder since this type of feeder will allow the birds that don’t eat the millet to toss it on the floor. If you use a tube feeder for this type of seed then it can be difficult for any species that doesn’t eat millet to sort through the mixture to find the seeds that they do like.

This type of millet offers a low fat content at four percent, with a high carb content coming in at seventy-three percent, and a moderate protein content at eleven percent.

Corn

When you purchase corn at a feed store, you’ll notice that its offered in a couple of different ways: cracked or whole kernel. While whole kernel is the more affordable option when compared to other types of birdseed, cracked is usually the favorite choice among birds and other wildlife. Cracked corn is basically whole kernel corn that’s been cut up.

Final Thoughts

This guide to birdseed types includes many options you can use for your bird feeding stations. The type you choose will determine which species hang around your yard and rely on you as a food source. The key here is balancing which types of birds you want to attract to your feeders, which ones you don’t and how much money you’re willing to spend every month to keep your feeders well-stocked.