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food for wild birds

Sunflower seeds are the staple for backyard birding!

pic of 40 lb. bag of sunflower seeds
40 lb bag of sunflower seed at Home Depot
We recommend Black Oil Sunflower seeds for the biggest bang for the buck in attracting backyard birds. You can buy them in large bags economically at WalMart, Home Depot and Lowe's.

If you have a squirrel problem, safflower seed could be best for you. Squirrels just don't care for safflower seeds but birds like them fine -- almost as well as sunflower seeds. However, it will take birds a while to cultivate a taste for safflower seeds. After becoming accustomed to the fact that that is all you have available, the birds will eventually eat them as voraciously as they did sunflower seeds.

It is generally not cost effective to have large bags of seed shipped to you. It is best to purchase them locally at one of the stores mentioned or at a garden supply store. The bag pictured is a 40 lb size from Home Depot for about $25, over 1.5 pounds for $1. This bag of Pennington's seed even has a pic of a downy woodpecker on the bag.

Sunflower seeds in a feeder about six feet off the ground will attract: cardinals, titmice, chickadees, finches (gold, purple and house), maybe a redbellied woodpecker and probably some unwanted squirrels (smile). The same seed on a ground feeder (a few inches off the ground) will attract doves, juncos and sparrows.

If you really get into backyard birding and want to attract more than the common backyard birds, you can get specialty foods for various birds:

Hummingbirds -- purchase nectar at a garden supply store or use our for hummingbird juice. Keep the hummingbird nectar/juice fresh by changing it out if it hasn't all been used in a week. The juice doesn't have to be red in color but you do need some bright color on the feeder to catch the hummers' attention. Keep a pitcher of the juice in the refrigerator to always have some available to refresh your feeders. We recommend Droll Yankees 'Little Flyer' hummingbird feeder. We believe it is the best hummingbird feeder available -- easy to fill and clean, it is durable and simple.

Woodpeckers and Bluebirds -- these birds will sometimes be attracted to a "suet" feeder. The best we can tell commercially sold "suet" is just seeds and stuff mixed up in a matrix of animal fat and placed in a square wire feeder. We have a for a psuedo suet stuff you can make yourself. They also will go for a simpler mixture we call peanutbutter concoction. Bluebirds will also be attracted to a tray type feeder filled with dried worms that are sold in the bird food section of Home Depot and Walmart.

To attract the bluebirds to eating suet or dried worms at your feeder, you first have to have bluebirds in the area. For that you need a nesting place. Bluebird boxes are available all over and them seem to be aching for new housing places. Just put up a bluebird box and they will turn up to nest in it. See our bluebird page for links to sites that can tell you more. Also see our houses page for a round birdhouse that bluebirds just seem to love.

Woodpeckers, Orioles and Tanagers -- these guys like fruit (you know, apples, oranges, and the like). You can buy a fruit feeder or just put a nail on a post or tree. Skewer a half apple or orange and see what turns up. We have attracted Woodpeckers easily with fruit but orioles and tanagers are more difficult. The problem with fruit is it doesn't stay fresh for long. A day or two and you have to replace it. We don't use it much. Also in the fruit line, woodpeckers seem to like grape jelly just blobbed in a bowl or something and set on a post away from the house.

Mockingbirds, Bluejays and Wrens -- these fellers just turn up automatically if you have bushes, flowers and a water source. They won't come to your feeders but they will nest in your yard.