I am asked this question a lot as cold weather approaches. The biggest no, no in feeding birds is offering seed blends with milo, oats, groats, or other filler seeds that birds won't eat. They are going to need a lot of energy to survive our cold winter and when they stop at your feeder it should be filled with food that will help sustain them through the night.
Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU) sells the best and freshest seed year round formulated especially for the local mid-Michigan birds. It does not include cheap filler grains that decrease the price per pound of a blend of seeds but is left by our birds to rot on the ground. WBU blends actually end up costing less because there is no wasted seed and it attracts more of the birds that you want to watch.
What is the best food?
When it comes to wild bird food, there are lots of choices. Different seeds as well as feeders will attract different bird species. The more you know about seed preference, the easier it will be to attract specific birds.
For birds in Michigan studies indicate that Black-Oil Sunflower, Fine and Medium Sunflower Chips, Peanuts, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer® Thistle are among the most preferred seed types.
For the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.
What about suet?
If you have never fed Suet, you have missed some great neighbors. Common birds that eat suet are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers. Chickadees, northern flickers, nuthatches, and starlings are also avid suet eaters. By adding Suet to your wild bird's menu, you will also attract wrens, blue jays, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.
Not all suets are created equal. We wanted to find out what kind of suet birds visiting our feeders would prefer. So we put out different kinds of suet including a high-energy suet, peanut butter suet, fruit berry suet, and one from the grocery store across the street. We weighed the suet and placed an equal amount in each of the suet feeders. After one week, we weighed the suet to see how much was left over. We found that peanut butter was by far the most popular. We concluded that the birds visiting our feeders preferred the suet that was labeled at least 40% crude fat. The suet from the grocery store had a crude fat of 25% and was eventually eaten by a raccoon.
I hope this helps. Look for how weatherproof your feeders tomorrow in part 2 of "How do I winterize my bird feeding station?"