Choosing the Right Wild Bird Seed

starling on a bird table

Not all wild bird seed will necessarily be enjoyed by all of the birds who may visit your garden. The key is to please the birds that already come to you, rather than focusing on the ones that you hope to attract. This will avoid wasted seed, that could otherwise lead to bacteria and mould build-up and may make birds ill. Over time, this can then tempt new species of wild birds to your garden.

Here are some of the most common types of wild bird seed and the wild birds that are most likely to be drawn to them.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are enjoyed by a wide range of wild birds, and come in two main forms. The black oil variety can be easily eaten by most birds and are usually enjoyed by the likes of blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinchs, goldfinchs, greenfinchs and house sparrows. The striped variety have thicker shells and are therefore harder for blackbirds and house sparrows to tackle. They also have less fat content than the black oil type, which can be important during the winter months.

Sunflower Hearts

Sunflower hearts are enjoyed by many birds but can be on the expensive side. They are usually preferred by a lot of wild birds including blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinchs, coal tits, collared doves, goldfinchs, greenfinchs, house sparrows, robins and starlings.


Millet is often included in bird seed mixes and can be enjoyed by doves and sparrows.

Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds are preferred by birds with strong beaks, including house finches. They are also usually rejected by squirrels, which is a plus point if they are also visiting your garden and making a beeline for bird seed.

Golden & Red Millet and Flax

These seeds are often included in bird seed mixes but are largely seen as “filler” content. This is because most birds will bypass them in favour of other seeds, which can lead to bacteria build-up and contamination of fresh seed. If you become aware that these seeds are being wasted, it’s better to look for seed mixes that don’t include them or to focus solely on the seeds that are being preferred.

How to Choose Quality Bird Seed

Not all wild bird seed is of good quality, even if it contains similar ingredients. High quality offerings will tempt a wider range of birds to your garden. Ideally, go for bird seed that contains less “filler” seeds and more sunflower seeds as this will generally be more popular and there will be less potential for wastage. Where possible, look for packaging that allows you to inspect the seed content and appearance before you buy.

Alternative Options to Wild Bird Seed

Not all wild birds necessarily enjoy eating seeds and would prefer other types of food. Alternative options include fat balls, fruit and nuts (depending on the wild bird in question).

[Photo Credit: pjs2005]