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Bird Food Choices

purple martin

Here are a few additional tips regarding food items and feeding:

General considerations for feeding birds

For ground and platform feeders distribute only what is eaten in a day or two at the most. When refilling hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc. make sure any remaining seed is clean and loose in the container. Watch for signs of mold and mildew in the seed or on the feeder. Clean and dry your feeder if signs of mold or mildew are present.

Egg shells

Egg shells can be an important source of calcium, especially for female birds during nesting. Wash and dry the egg shells, then bake at 200-300 degrees until the edges just start to turn brown. Crush and serve on the ground or a platform feeder.


Orange and grapefruit halves attract orioles, jays, tanagers and woodpeckers. Chopped raisins, soaked in water to soften, and chopped up apples are popular with many species, including thrushes, mockingbirds, jays.

Blueberries, cranberries (fresh or dried) and dried cherries are also popular with fruit-eating species.


Mealworms are popular with several species and bluebirds are especially fond of them. Mealworms are not always easy to find.

eastern bluebird

Bluebirds love mealworms and will meet you at the door if you feed at the same time each day.

Mixed seed

There is a variety of good seed blends available. Be careful in purchasing the bags of mixed seed commonly seen in grocery stores and discount stores. Many of these mixes contain large amounts of milo and other seed that may not be popular with the birds in your area. Check the bird feeding chart in this section for species and food preferences.

Some seed mixes are rich in a variety of quality seeds and fruit. Fruit may include dried blueberries or cherries. These quality mixes are most often available through stores specializing in bird feeding products.

Sunflower seed

Sunflower is probably the best all around food. Sunflower hearts are no doubt the best but are expensive. Black oil sunflower has become the most popular because it is easier for the birds to open (Some weak billed birds cannot open the striped sunflower seeds.) and contains a large kernel.


Suet is the dense fat found around beef kidneys and loins. It is available already prepared as a bird food, often mixed with peanut butter, chopped peanuts, sunflowers or other seed. It can also be found at many grocery stores, just ask at the meat counter. It will not be as neatly packaged but will work as well in cooler climates.

suet……………suet feeder
Suet cakes are sold in blocks and served in a wire cage.


In warmer areas the suet will need to be rendered to produce a harder product that will not melt in the heat. Render the fat by melting it in a pan or skillet. Discard any un-dissolved pieces and pour into a metal container to cool. Consider rendering outdoors or your house may have an interesting smell for quite some time. You can also mix in peanut butter and sunflower hearts with the melted suet.

Peanut butter mixes of various kinds can also be used a suet-substitute.

Here are a couple of easy suet-recipes.


Shelled and unshelled peanuts are popular with a variety of species, including woodpeckers, jays and nuthatches.


Store your seed in a cool, dry location. Trash cans with a tight lid make an ideal storage container. Do not feed seed or grain that has become moldy or covered with mildew.

Fresh water

In many areas the most effective addition to your yard for attracting birds is a bird bath. Birdbaths can be enhanced with drippers and misters, which many birds love. Keep the water fresh and clean out the bird bath on a regular basis to eliminate contamination.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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