We spent more than 45 hours over a 7 day period researching and testing over 15 different types and brands of wild bird seed and found that popularity with birds, cost, and brand reputation were the most important factors with consumers shopping for wild bird seed. Wagner’s 62059 Greatest Variety Blend scored high marks in all categories and is our overall top pick. Wagner is one of the most popular companies in the wild bird seed industry. The Greatest Variety Blend is the ultimate in bird seed that appeals to a large variety of birds. It contains 11 ingredients that have been carefully chosen to draw beautiful songbirds to your back yard.
Wild Bird Seed Buying Guide
Below we have listed several things that you want to look for when it comes to finding the best wild bird seed for your backyard feathered friends.
Freshness – You want to purchase seed that is as fresh as possible. Fresh bird seed will not have inedible parts, a lot of dust, or empty hulls the way older seeds will. If you are purchasing seed online to get a better price, read reviews from other customers to see what they think about the seed and what kind of experiences they are having with the seed. When the seed arrives check it for signs of insect infestation like moths, worms, or webbing as well as signs of mildew or mold. If any of these things listed are found in the seed, don’t feed it to the birds and contact the company for a refund or exchange.
Quantity and Value – When you order wild bird seed online you can order in larger quantities and take advantage of the bulk prices that you can often see. Don’t buy so much bird seed that it gets spoiled or stale. If you are always going through tons of bird seed then buying in larger quantities should not be a problem for you.
Proportions and Mix – Look for a wild bird seed that offers a blend of many different seeds. Doing this will help you attract more species to your yard since you will have more to offer them than just one type of seed. Choose a seed that offers a higher amount of higher quality seeds like sunflower seed or millet. The lower quality seeds usually have a lot of fillers like cracked corn, oats, wheat and other grains that birds don’t typically enjoy.
Packaging – Look for packaging that is made from coated paper bags, or sturdy plastic which will keep the seed fresher. Some companies, like Wagners, package their seed in heavy woven poly bags which is also great for keeping the bird seed fresh. Handles and easy-open tabs are also popular packaging features. Look for clear bags that allow you to see the contents before opening it so if there is a problem you can contact the company. Resealable openings are also preferable.
Ingredients – Look at the labels of the wild bird seed that you are interested in to ensure that it is not treated with insecticides or pesticides that are toxic to birds. It is also preferable to find products that list the different proportions of ingredients that are used in the bag so you can ensure the mix is not loaded down with fillers.
Prices – Remember that high prices don’t necessarily mean high quality. You should look at brand reputation as well as ingredients and even customer comments to determine whether that higher price means the kind of quality you are looking for. Don’t choose a seed because it is the cheapest either. Even though a high priced seed doesn’t always equal a high quality product, a cheap one is almost always cheaply made and has a lot of fillers.
Brand Name – Being familiar with a well-known brand is always a good idea if you are looking for a quality product. Look for brands that are known for their quality such as Wagners and Kaytee which have been around for decades. These two companies and other well-known bird seed companies make it a priority to include healthy ingredients in the feed.
Common Seeds used in Wild Bird Seed Mixes
There are many different kinds of seeds that are used in wild bird seed blends. We have listed these common seeds below so you can learn a little bit about each of them and the types of birds that are attracted to them.
Sunflower Seeds – There are two basic kinds of sunflower seeds that are often used in wild bird seed blends:
1. Striped – The shells of striped sunflower seeds is thicker than black oil seeds which makes them harder for certain birds like blackbirds and house sparrows to get open.
2. Black Oil – Black oil sunflower seeds, also known as oilers have thin shells that are very easy for all birds to crack open. The kernels of these sunflower seeds contain a high level of fat are really valuable sources of energy for wintertime.
There are shelled sunflower seeds in some mixes which many birds love because they don’t have to crack the shells to get to the tasty parts. Squirrels are also huge fans of shelled sunflower seeds. It is more expensive and you have to be careful that the seeds don’t spoil. Don’t put out any more shelled sunflower seeds than the birds can eat in a day or two.
Sunflower seeds are very appealing to squirrels in general which could be a problem for people who don’t want to see all their sunflower stash eaten up by squirrels. There are some products out there that can keep squirrels away but most of these furry creatures are pretty determined to get to the seeds at all costs.
Safflower Seeds – the Safflower seed has a hard shell that is very thick and difficult for some birds to get open. It is a favorite of Cardinals. Other birds that like it include chickadees, native sparrows, grosbeaks, and doves also find it tasty. There are some sources that state squirrels, house sparrows, and European starlings don’t like safflower seeds but this will vary from region to region.
Thistle or Nyjer Seeds – A lot of finch species love these needle-like seeds that are tiny in comparison to other seeds. These seeds have been sterilized by heat before they are added to a wild bird feed mix. This heat sterilization will reduce the chance of them spreading while still keeping their nutritional value.
White Proso Millet – This type of millet is a big favorite of birds that feed on the ground including doves, quails, cardinals, towhees, and juncos. It is also favored by house sparrows, blackbirds, and cowbirds.
Cracked and Shelled Corn – there are many birds that favor corn including cardinals, crows, pheasants, quails, doves, ravens and many others. There is a problem with corn though; corn is a bird food that can easily get contaminated with something called aflatoxins which are highly toxic even in low levels. If your wild bird seed mix has cracked or shelled corn you may want to watch it carefully and not serve more than they can eat in a day.
Milo – Many of the Western ground feeding birds love Milo. Thrashers with curved bills, Gambels, Steller’s Jays and quail all love Milo.
Peanuts – There are tons of birds and small animals like squirrels and raccoons that love peanuts. Peanuts can also harbor aflatoxins so it needs to be offered in very small amounts and not be allowed to get wet.
Millets, Flax and others – Many packaged wild bird seeds that are lesser quality use millet as a filler. The majority of birds tend to ignore millet in favor of other seeds. It is better for the health of your backyard birds to avoid mixes that offer millet since they can cause a lot of problems.
Canary Seed and Rapeseed – if the wild bird seed blend you are considering offers these two seeds in the mix you should be aware that some birds will eat rapeseed like finches and doves but if you don’t have these birds in your yard the rapeseed will more than likely spoil. Most birds that like canary seeds also like sunflower seeds which are a much better nutritional choice.
Feeding wild birds is a huge pastime enjoyed by millions of people. If you have numerous feeders in your yard and enjoy feeding and watching the birds come and go, you will want to offer them plenty of reasons to be there.
There are many different types of wild bird seed on the market that you can choose from. One of the most important factors you should look at is the types of seeds that make up the mixture you are interested in so you know what you are feeding your backyard visitors.
The three top-rated wild bird seed mixes we have reviewed above are high quality seeds that include a variety of great ingredients that large number of different birds enjoys. Using any one of these feeds in your feeders will ensure happy yard birds and will draw more and different species to your yard as well.
Before you choose a wild bird seed try to learn about the different birds that are already visiting your yard so you choose one that appeals to them while also adding some new things that could draw new birds to the yard.
The buying guide we have included has provided some great information on what to look for in a wild bird seed as well as what to do to increase the bird population in your yard, what to feed to attract specific types of birds, and some information about the common seeds used in wild bird seed mixes.
This information will make it much easier and less confusing to sort through all the different choices so you can make a confident decision on the right wild bird seed for your feeders and the species of birds that you have visiting your yard.