Your Bird Feed Determines Who You See

Different bird species eat different things. While a Mourning dove likes cracked corn, a Red-bellied woodpecker prefers suet. What you put out in your feeder will be a large factor in determining who you end up seeing at your feeder.

Penn State University’s Dr. Margaret C. Brittingham, Professor of Wildlife Resources, recommends small black-oil sunflower seed as the best all-round bird seed. In a publication she wrote for Penn State Extension she noted, it “is preferred by many smaller species, including chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. It has a high oil content that is nutritionally important for birds, and a thin seed coat that is easy for them to crack open.”

Dr. Brittingham also suggests providing a variety of foods to help increase the variety of birds you see. Your feeder will need to be one designed to dispense the seed. For instance striped sunflower seeds are larger than the black-oil sunflower seed. A feeder that easily lets the black-oil sunflower seed out might jam up because striped sunflower seeds are too big to exit the holes in the feeder.

She also recommends using a seed mix if you’re interested in a variety of birds, but don’t have the desire to maintain a variety of feeders, or space for a variety of feeders. She does caution, that some mixes contain items that birds in our region don’t eat, so you want to be sure to read the label and pick a seed mix that “fits” what birds in your area eat.

Dr. Brittingham shares the recipes for “Marvel Meal,” a favorite for chickadees, titmice, wrens, and bluebirds. The mixture can be smeared on the trunk of a tree, or a tree stump. You can also freeze the mixture into blocks, slice it and put it in a suet feeder or put it on a feeder tray.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 handful of sunflower seeds (optional)