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The Best Birdseed for Your Outdoor Feeder

a tufted titmouse bird eating birdseed from a bird feeder outside
Samuel Brozek/Shutterstock

Many people enjoy keeping a bird feeder in their backyard or on their porch or balcony. Some people bird watch as a hobby; some find the continuous presence and singing of wild birds soothing and relaxing; some want to give local birds a reliable source of food; some live in a large city or populated area and want to bring a little slice of nature and natural beauty to their home. Drawing birds to your backyard or outdoor living space also encourages them to eat the mosquitoes and other pesky insects in the immediate area. Whatever your reasons for installing an outdoor bird feeder, you’re going to need to fill that feeder with food to attract birds. Birdseed is by far the most common choice. It attracts a wide variety of different bird species, it’s affordable, easy to find, fits in most types of bird feeders, and is sold in large bulk quantities, so one bag will last you for a long time. Depending on the type of seeds you pick, you can even somewhat control (or at least heavily influence) which bird species pay your feeder a visit or increase your chances of attracting a certain species you want to see. If you’re looking for the best birdseed to fill your feeders with, here are a few we recommend.

What to Consider in Birdseed

Here are a few things to think about before buying birdseed:

  • Type: There are many different types of seeds you can buy to fill your bird feeder. Assortments of various seeds and nuts are quite common, and they’re ideal for attracting the widest diversity of bird species. You also have the option to buy a bag that’s made up entirely of one type of seed. Sunflower seeds are a common choice, either in black oil or their regular striped variety. Almost all seed-eating birds love black oil sunflower seeds, while species like cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, and chickadees will be drawn to striped sunflower seeds. Safflower seeds are great for deterring squirrels since they tend not to eat this type of seed, while still drawing in most bird species. Nyjer seeds, also called thistle, are particularly attractive to finches (including goldfinches), chickadees, and doves. Most birds love peanuts, though if they’re still in the shell only some species like magpies, crows, jays, and some woodpeckers can open them. When possible, buy roasted and unsalted peanuts for your bird feeder as this is healthier for the birds. Like peanuts, corn kernels will attract birds like jays, crows, ravens, and grackles, while cracked corn is more universal and especially loved by sparrows. There are also some suet cakes that are often mixed with seeds and nuts, which is a great option for wintertime as it provides birds with extra energy and fat. Starlings, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees will especially love suet.
  • Format: Birdseed is most commonly sold loose in bags. Loose birdseed comes in many varieties, fits in most bird feeders, and can be purchased in bulk quantities for maximum cost efficiency. Depending on the type of bird feeder you own or if you’re worried about loose seed spilling on the ground and going to waste, you can also buy birdseed in cake form instead. Birdseed cakes are made from the same seeds as regular loose birdseed, combined with some sort of sticking agent and pressed into a firm, stackable cake-like shape. Some may have fruits mixed in as well. Seed cakes will hold their shape even as birds nibble away at them, and they tend to last longer than the same quantities of loose seed. They’re a great option if you’re ever going away on a long vacation and won’t be around to refill your feeder. Birdseed cakes will fit into suet cages, unlike loose seed, and work with platform feeders as well. Keep in mind, however, that they are often pricier than regular loose birdseed, may become waterlogged or rot if not eaten fast enough, and have a higher risk of attracting the attention of other wildlife like squirrels or raccoons.
  • Quantity: The smallest bags of birdseed are sold in 2-to-5-pound bags, while the largest tops out around 40 pounds. In-between sizes (10-to-20-pound bags) are very common. The amount of birdseed you’ll want to buy will be influenced by the size of your feeder, how often it needs refilling, and how much extra storage space you have. A 10- or 15-pound bag will probably be a suitable size for the average bird feeder, though you may want to opt for a bigger bag for better cost efficiency in the long run or if you have an extra-large feeder. If you live in a smaller apartment or condo with limited storage space, you might have to stick with 2- or 5-pound bags out of necessity. If you do opt for a larger quantity, be sure you have somewhere safe and moisture-free to store it, as you don’t want the seed to start molding or for pests to get into it.

Best Blend: Kaytee Ultimate Birder’s Blend Wild Bird Food

a bag of blended birdseed and nuts

If you want to see the widest possible variety of bird species or you aren’t trying to draw any particular species to your yard, this is the blended birdseed for you. It’s an assortment of safflower seeds, peanuts, striped sunflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and millet, which is highly nutritious for birds. The black oil sunflower seeds are especially great for providing birds with extra energy. From woodpeckers to cardinals, grosbeaks to morning doves, most species will love this blend of seeds, drawing them in all year round. Whether you own a hopper, gazebo, platform, or tube-style bird feeder, this birdseed is compatible with them all. Each bag is 10 pounds, with plenty of seed to keep an average feeder filled for weeks. For optimal storage, re-seal the bag after filling your feeder, and store this bag of birdseed in a cool, dry place, preferably a sealed container. There are no mess and fruit and nut mixtures available as well, or you have the option to purchase this birdseed with a bag of nyjer thistle seeds or a waste-free blend of seeds.

Best Blend

Kaytee Ultimate Birder's Blend Wild Bird Food, 10 lb

A 10-pound bag of assorted birdseed that will draw a diverse selection of birds to your feeder all year.

Best Sunflower Kernels: Lyric Sunflower Kernels

a bag of unshelled sunflower kernels with a picture of a bird on the front

Wild birds of all species love to eat sunflower seeds, and this bag of kernels will draw in songbirds of all sorts. Unlike most sunflower seeds sold as bird food, these are sold without their shells and hulls. This, in turn, means that bird species like chickadees that aren’t capable of getting sunflower seeds out of their shells are still able to enjoy them and will come to visit your feeder. No shells also mean no leftover waste, debris, or mess scattered below the feeder. Keep in mind that sunflower seeds without shells are also more susceptible to the elements, so they fare best in bird feeders that have a shade or some other sort of protection to shield the contents from sun and rain and such. The bag itself is specially designed to help keep the kernels fresher for longer. If preferred, you can mix these sunflower seeds with other seeds and nuts instead of serving them alone; they can be bought along with five other kinds of birdseed. Get it in a 5- or 25-pound bag.

Best Sunflower Seeds

Lyric 2647445 Sunflower Kernels - 5 lb.

A bag of unshelled sunflower kernels that are well suited to all songbirds, even species that can't normally enjoy sunflower seeds.

Best Peanuts: Lyric Peanut Pieces

a bag of unshelled peanut pieces with the picture of a chickadee on the front

You may not think of peanuts as food that birds enjoy, but they’re actually a great option with which to fill your bird feeder. They provide valuable sources of protein and fat for wild birds, which is especially crucial in the winter when their natural food is more scarce and during nesting season when their babies are being born. Peanuts are a reliable way to lure certain species like jays, bluebirds, and woodpeckers, as well as more arboreal birds like nuthatches and chickadees. And since these peanuts aren’t shelled, they aren’t only limited to species that are capable of un-shelling peanuts on their own. No shells also mean no leftover debris or scattered pieces below the feeder for you to clean up. Since these peanuts don’t come in shells, make sure you put them in a feeder with some sort of cover to help protect them from the elements so that they don’t go bad. They’re available in a five or 15-pound bag.

Best Peanuts

Lyric 2647463 Peanut Pieces Wild Bird Food, 15 lb

Unshelled peanuts for your bird feeder that won't leave any scattered shells, mess, or debris for you to pick up.

Best Cakes: Audubon Park Nut and Fruit Snack Stack

a round cake of various nuts and seeds and fruits, wrapped in plastic wrap with a picture of a chickadee on the front

Birdseed cakes are a great choice if you have a platform or basket feeder, or limited outdoor space to feed birds. They also require minimal effort on your end. Simply unwrap them from the plastic wrapping and stack them on your feeder. You don’t have to worry about lifting heavy bags and accidentally spilling birdseed everywhere, wasting it. These birdseed cakes provide all the classic seeds and nuts of traditional assorted birdseed, with some bonus dried fruits. A blend of white and red millet, black oil and striped sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, safflower seeds, peanuts, and raisins, these cakes also contain some gelatin to help hold them together. This diverse mix of seeds, nuts, and fruit will bring all the local species of birds to your feeder. Each cake provides 8.5 ounces of food for birds, and since they take longer to break apart and eat than normal birdseed, they’ll last you for longer. You can buy one single cake or a pack of two, four, or six if you want to save them up or stack more than one cake on your feeder at a time. If you’re looking to attract certain species of birds, you can also buy these cakes in blends geared towards cardinals or woodpeckers.

Best Cakes

Audubon Park 13142 Nut & Fruit Snack Stack Bird/Wildlife Food, 1-Pack

Stackable birdseed cakes held together with gelatin that require minimal effort and a longer-lasting value.

Best Suet: Heath Outdoor Products Birdie’s Blend Suet Cake

a block of suet wrapped in plastic wrap with a picture of a cardinal on the front

These suet and birdseed cakes combine the best of both food types, plus the convenience of birdseed cakes. The rendered beef suet provides wild birds with an extra source of fat and protein. These cakes are designed not to melt no matter the season, so you can put them in your suet cage, platform, or basket feeder all year if you so desire. It’s also mixed with corn, milo, wheat, millet, and sunflower seeds to draw in a wider variety of songbirds and provide more fiber than suet alone does. The cakes are larger than many at 11.25-ounces each, giving you greater value for your money. You receive a case of 12 cakes with your purchase, so you can put multiple cakes out at once or save them up. Do not unwrap any cakes you’re not placing in your feeder, and store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to set them out.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »

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