Which birdseed is best for attracting birds? - A Guide for Buying Bird Food

Updated: Jun 13

Bird food should not be bought haphazardly. Our guide will prevent you from wasting money on waste foods. If you missed our guide to feeders, click here!

Feeding birds is a $4+ billion industry. How has this industry become such a powerhouse? People wasting dollars on foods that mostly become waste. How do you know you are not shopping correctly for bird food?

You buy food based on the "cover birds." - Many bags of birdseed put photos of birds on the cover that you have no chance of attracting. Often, seed bags have birds found in the UK on the cover of seed sold in North America. Ouch.

You buy food with "Deluxe Blend" or "Wild Bird Food," instead of reading the ingredients. - If you see a bag of bird food with "Deluxe Blend," R-U-N! A deluxe blend equals a deluxe waste of money. If you buy a deluxe blend, all you are doing is supporting a CEO's deluxe lifestyle. STOP! Simplify.

You look for the cheapest bag you can find. - Does buying the cheapest item available ever work out? If you are feeding on a budget, buy smaller bags of the good stuff and put your birds on a RATION! That's right, give those piggies a diet. Put the limited food out on a schedule and train those little feathered blighters when to arrive and provide enjoyment.

Before I provide my recommendations, I need to state two things:

  1. If you have no intention of cleaning your bird feeders, you should not own bird feeders.

  2. All product links below lead to product listings on Amazon for your convenience. However, as an Amazon Associate, I do earn from qualifying purchases. I do not earn any commissions for recommending certain products, though. So, you can be assured we are unbiased!

Top Types of Birdseed and Bird Food

We do not flock around when it comes to recommendations. Our recommendations are safe, healthy for birds, and provide value for the investment. However, our food recommendations are not brand-based, but instead, we base our recommendation on FOOD TYPE. Without feather ado, let's begin.

Best Overall Bird Seed: Sunflower Seed

Sunflower seed is the best all-around birdseed you can buy. It attracts woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, tits, cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, sparrows, finches, and more! Sunflower seeds are a great source of fat, fiber, protein, calcium, and several other vitamins and minerals.

The best way to buy sunflower seed is in a local feed, hardware, or gardening store. You can often buy in bulk, lessening your cost per pound. However, if you cannot buy in a local store, the Kaytee Black Oil Sunflower Seed from Amazon is not outrageously priced. But again, buying in-store will likely provide you the best value.

Best Finch Seed: Nyjer Seed

Nyjer seed, also called thistle seed, is a great attractant for finches, juncos, and other species of sparrows. While it is also called thistle, it is not related to the noxious thistle plants found in North America. Additionally, nyjer seed is heated to prevent germination if the seeds fall to the ground. Finches love it, especially in winter, as it is a great source of fat and protein.

Again, the best way to purchase nyjer seed is in a local feed, hardware, or gardening store. You can often buy in bulk, lessening your cost per pound. If that is not possible, Wagner's Nyjer Seed, is a decent deal.

Best Alternative Bird Seed Seed: Safflower

Safflower seed is often pointed to by bird-lovers who struggle with European Starlings or squirrels mobbing their feeders. However, it may not discourage all "pests" for long. Is it worth a try if your feeders are overrun with starlings? Absolutely. However, it can be an expensive alternative.

Not all local stores will carry safflower seed. If they do, you will likely find a better deal with those stores. However, if your stores do not carry it, trying a small bag like Wagner's Safflower Seed may be worth a try.

Suet Recommendations

Suet is a great food option for attracting woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and even the occasional warbler. It is best used in cooler months, as the suet can get soft or melt during the summer. Here at Flocking Around, we feed multiple kinds of seed. So, when we put out suet cakes, we prefer those that have foods not included in our regularly provided menu. For us, that includes berries, mealworms, and peanuts.

Most local garden, feed, and hardware stores offer a variety of suets. However, if they do not, I have provided links to many options available online: Amazon.com Suet.

Homemade Hummingbird Food

Please, please, please, DO NOT USE RED DYE! If you do not believe you have the time to make your own hummingbird food, then plant flowers that attract hummingbirds. Purchasing hummingbird food with red dyes is not helping birds. DO NOT DO IT.

Now, to make your own hummingbird food, follow these steps:

  1. Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved - Make sure to only use REFINED WHITE SUGAR (Amazon) - Do not use honey


  3. Fill your hummingbird feeder with homemade food

  4. Extra hummingbird food can be stored in a refrigerator

Here at Flocking Around, we make enough food to last for several weeks, and then we store it in sealed glass jars. If you are worried about the time required for making food, this is a great way to be prepared. Of course, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes, but we still won't discourage a well-prepped birdwatcher!

Top Plants for Feeding Birds

Native plants are often the best way to support birds. Plants provide food by the insects that feed upon them in summer, and then often they provide food through berries or seeds after the growing season has finished. The best way to find out which native plants are great for attracting and helping birds in your area is to use the National Audubon Society's Native Plant Database. However, this database can oversimplify if you know your plants. So, if you have a good grasp of plants and gardening, visit the North American Plant Atlas of the Biota of North America Program.

Final Thoughts on Buying Bird Food

DO NOT BUY MIXED SEED. - That is the most important advice I can offer. Buy one of the three types of seed offered in this guide. It will attract more birds and waste less money than any other option.

Feeding birds can be an enjoyable experience and hobby. However, it can require serious effort and research! We hope this guide helps reduce the time required for the preparation of feeding birds. We also hope we saved you from wasting money on the multitude of waste birdseed on the market.

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