Winter is coming, but not every local bird will be flying south. If you want to spot birds in your yard this winter, consider putting out a few bird feeders. The wider variety of bird seed you put in those feeders, the greater diversity of birds you’ll attract.
Here’s a look at some of the more common types of bird seed in NJ, and the birds that eat them, courtesy of the The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other sources.
Nyjer seed – Once called Niger seed – from the African country where it originated – this seed’s name was trademarked by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry in 1998. Many bird enthusiasts call it “thistle,” although it’s not related to thistle plants. No matter what you call these seeds, they’re popular among American goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, indigo buntings, pine siskins and common redpolls.
Shelled/cracked corn – Cardinals, grosbeaks, crows, ravens, jays, doves, pheasants, grouses and quail all eat corn. Unfortunately, so do raccoon, deer and bears. And corn can carry harmful aflatoxins if it gets wet. For both those reasons, you should only serve as much corn as can be eaten in a day during wet or humid weather, and clean up any uneaten corn.
Peanuts – Birds like peanuts as much as we do. Having the nuts in your feeder will attract crows, jays, titmice, chickadees and other species. However, all the caveats we just attached to corn apply here as well: peanuts could attract unwanted animals, and could also harbor aflatoxins, so keep them dry and serve them in smaller amounts.
Safflower – These seeds have a thick shell, and are a favorite among cardinals, as well as grosbeaks, chickadees, doves and native sparrows. According to the Cornell Lab, the jury is out on whether European starlings and house sparrows when it comes to safflower. There is evidence they won’t eat it, but some birdwatchers say these birds have developed a taste for it.
Sunflower seeds – Popular with many birds, sunflower seeds come in two varieties: black oil and striped. Striped sunflower seeds are thicker and harder to open, so if you’re seeing a lot of birds you’d rather not have, consider switching from black to striped seeds. According to the website Nature Pods, sunflower seeds are popular with grosbeaks, nuthatches, tufted titmice, house finches, goldfinches, purple finches, mourning doves, juncos and woodpeckers.
Fruits and raisins – Birds that eat dried fruits and raisins include robins, waxwings, mockingbirds Baltimore orioles, and eastern bluebirds.
White millet – Ground-feeding birds such as quails, doves, towhees, juncos, cardinals and native sparrows are all fans of white millet. But birds like house sparrows, cowbirds and other blackbirds also like white millet. If you’re seeing a lot of these in your yard, the Cornell lab recommends replacing white millet with sunflower seeds. Nearly all birds that eat millet will also eat black oil sunflower seeds.
According to the Audubon Society, people interested in bringing a variety of birds to their yards should put bird feeders on different levels. Some species feed in trees, others in shrubs, others on the ground. And it also helps to put a variety of seeds in separate feeders
At Mendham Garden Center, our inventory includes four varieties of bird seed mixes, designed to appeal to a variety of east coast birds and leave less waste on the ground.
- Hearty Delight – A mix of sunflower hearts and chips, along with hulled white millet, peanuts and peanut hearts, cracked corn and Nyjer seeds.
- Super Deluxe – A five-star meal for wild birds, featuring more than 10 different ingredients: white millet Nyjer seed, cracked corn finch millet, sunflower hearts, safflower seed, peanuts, peanut hearts, cracked corn, canary seed, tree nuts and dried fruits.
- Black Oil Sunflower – Our most popular type of bird seed, with thin shells, easy for all seed-eating birds to open. Their kernels contain a lot of fat, which is significant for winter birds.
- Woodpecker Mix – A blend of various tree nuts, sunflower hearts, peanuts, whole kernel corn, raisins and shelled pumpkin seeds.
In addition to feed, we also offer bird feeders designed for specific types of bird: thistle feeders for finches, woodpecker feeders, and can even order mealy worm feeders for bluebirds. If you’re worried about attracting squirrels, we carry a nice selection of squirrel-resistant feeders, along with baffles and poles. They’ll help keep away pests while making sure your feathered friends stay fed.