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Kinds of Food

Seeds are the most common food provided at feeding stations. They are rich in carbohydrates and calories and supply valuable energy during cold weather. However, many seeds and grains in commercial mixes - millet, oats, flax, and wheat—are ignored and scattered on the ground by most birds while searching for seeds they like. This creates a mess, increases your feeding costs, and can attract rats and mice. Mixes with unattractive seeds should be avoided.

The best all-around seed that meets the needs of most seed-eating birds is black oil-type sunflower seed. Thistle seed, also called niger, is generally eaten only by siskins and goldfinches, but they love it!

It’s best to avoid mixtures and to buy seed varieties separately. You can put each in different feeders so the birds can choose their favorite. You can find seeds at feed stores, large hardware stores, and stores that cater to bird enthusiasts. Your local Audubon Society Chapter may also supply seed.

During the winter months, many insect-eating birds are forced to change their eating habits to include seeds and fruits. Suet provides an alternate source of food for these birds. Suet is the hard fat surrounding cattle and sheep kidneys. It can be obtained at grocery stores and meat markets, often free of charge. Prepared and packaged suet is fairly inexpensive and available from many stores. Suet, either “straight” or mixed with other ingredients, can be put in wire mesh feeders or smeared into suet logs and crevices of pine cones.

BirdfoodFavorite Suet Recipes

Basic formula

  • Heat to boiling 1 part suet and 6 parts water.
  • Add 2 parts cornmeal, 1/2 part flour, 1 part brown sugar.
  • Cool, pour into cupcake molds, and allow to harden.

A standard mix

  • Twice melt 2 parts suet, allowing it to harden between melts.
  • Blend in 1 part yellow cornmeal and 1 part peanut butter.
  • Allow to thicken, pour into molds, allow to harden.
  • The relative proportions of these ingredients may vary depending on your preferences.

    Refrigerate all leftover mixtures.

BirdfoodPeanut Butter
Kids aren’t the only ones who love peanut butter. When mixed with other foods, it provides a less expensive meal than nuts. In winter when protein and fat are scarce, peanut butter is a valuable addition to a bird's diet. Try mixing peanut butter, crumbs, and raisins with melted suet for a meal-in-one “bird cake” which appeals to a variety of birds.

This specialty item can often attract birds that otherwise aren’t interested in your feeders. Waxwings, robins, and thrushes may visit a feeding station if fruit or berries are offered. Fresh or dried apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, currants, dates, oranges, grapes and raisins are popular fruits. Your yard should also have a large variety of berry-producing trees and shrubs.