K-State Research and Extension News
January 15, 2009
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Attracting Birds Means Supplying What They Like

SALINA, Kan. -- To a degree, attracting birds to a backyard feeder requires giving them what they most prefer. That can be complicated, because different kinds of birds prefer different types of food.

“Among the seed-eaters, though, what ranks as No. 1 among most species is the small, black, oil sunflower seed. If thistle or niger seed isn’t available, even American goldfinches and pine siskins will readily eat them,” said Chip Miller, Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulturist.

Black oil sunflower seeds are available at seed stores, garden stores, supermarkets and grain elevators, he said.

“You just need to read the list of ingredients,” he said. “You won’t want the majority of a mix to be the kinds of seeds that birds kick out of the feeder, attracting rodents to what falls to the ground.”

Miller said that among winter’s common Kansas birds, some of the preferred foods include:

            * Cardinal, evening grosbeak and most finch species -- sunflower seeds, all types.

            * Rufous-sided towhee -- white proso millet

            * Dark-eyed junco -- white and red proso millet, canary seed, fine cracked corn.

            * Many sparrow species -- white and red proso millet.

            * Blue jay -- peanut kernels and sunflower seeds of all types.

            * Chickadee and tufted titmouse -- peanut kernels, oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds.

            * Red-breasted nuthatch -- oil (black) and black-striped sunflower seeds.

            * Brown thrasher -- hulled and black-striped sunflower seeds.

            * Red-winged blackbird -- white and red proso millet plus German (golden) millet

            * Mourning dove -- oil (black) sunflower seeds, white and red proso plus German (golden) millet.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Kathleen Ward
K-State Research & Extension News

Chip Miller is at 785-309-5850.