- Bird seeds are a great way to attract finches, cardinals, bluebirds, and other species to your backyard.
- Our top pick – Valley Splendor Black Oil Sunflower Seeds – appeals to a wide range of birds.
Different species of birds have different preferences when it comes to seeds. If you offer the wrong type, you likely won’t have many feathered visitors. This is a frequent problem if you fill your feeders with the least expensive “Wild Bird Seed Blend” on supermarket shelves, which generally include unfavorable milo and millet seed.
We rounded up the best bird seeds preferred by certain bird species, like bluebirds, cardinals, and finches. Be sure to do some research to learn which birds native to your region so you can buy the right seed to raise your chances of spotting some beautiful new backyard visitors.
To maintain freshness, it’s important to store your bag of seeds in a dry, cool, and dark place when not offered to birds outside. Make sure to clean your bird feeders weekly, too.
Here are the best bird seeds and food of 2021
- Best wild bird seed overall: Valley Splendor Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
- Best wild bird seed mix: Wagner’s Greatest Variety Wild Bird Food
- Best no-mess wild bird seed: Lyric Sunflower Kernels
- Best wild bird seed to attract finches: Wagner’s Nyjer Seed Premium Wild Bird Food
- Best wild bird seed to attract cardinals: Kaytee Safflower Seed
- Best wild bird food to attract bluebirds: Kaytee Mealworms Wild Bird Food
Valley Splendor contains black oil sunflower seeds, which most wild birds love, and it’s also affordable enough to keep your feeders full.
Pros: Appeals to a large variety of birds, reasonable price, works with different types of feeders
Cons: Dropped shells make a mess, attracts squirrels
Available quantities: 2-, 5-, 10-, 20-, and 40-pound bags
Black oil sunflower seeds are smaller and have thinner shells than ones offered for human snacking. Because of this, even small birds are able to crack them open.
Fill your hopper, tube, platform, or hanging feeder with Valley Splendor Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, and you’ll soon have crowds of various birds visiting your yard. Some species you may see include chickadees, finches, titmice, jays, grosbeaks, cardinals, sparrows, and doves.
Though dropped shells can become messy and the seeds may attract squirrels, these two downsides are relatively common among bird seed.
The best wild bird seed mix
If you want a mix that will attract a wide variety of birds, Wagner’s Greatest Variety Wild Bird Food offers an excellent medley.
Pros: Attracts a wide variety of birds
Cons: Contains some less popular types of seed, appeals to squirrels
Available quantities: 6- or 16-pound bag
With lots of black oil sunflower, along with striped sunflower seeds, sunflower chips, white millet, red millet, cracked corn, red milo, nyjer, peanut kernels, canary seed, and safflower, Wagner’s Greatest Variety Wild Bird Food is a buffet for finches, chickadees, cardinals, jays, titmice, sparrows, woodpeckers, and juncos alike.
You can fill your hopper, platform, or hanging bird feeder for the most visitors, or scatter some on a ground feeder for doves and other scavenging birds. Like our best overall pick, Wagner’s may also attract squirrels.
Wagner’s Greatest Variety Wild Bird Food Mix does contain some less-popular or frequently wasted seed, but the majority of the seeds are crowd-pleasers.
The best no-mess wild bird seed
Lyric Sunflower Kernels are pre-shelled so you won’t find a mess of discarded seed casings underneath your feeder.
Pros: No shells to make a mess, little wasted seed, appeals to a wide range of birds
Cons: Attracts squirrels, can spoil easily if the seed gets wet
Available quantities: 5- or 25-pound bag
Birds tend to drop shells to the ground and kick undesired seeds out of the feeder, but Lyric’s Sunflower Kernels feed combats this issue with already-shelled seeds that will leave your backyard clean.
This bird seed only contains pure sunflower seed pieces and, because sunflower seed is so popular with so many species of birds, it’s unlikely you’ll have leftover or wasted seed.
The one caveat to these kernels is that they’ll easily spoil if they become wet, so be sure to store them in a dry place. These seeds also attract squirrels, so you may not have much wasted seed left in your feeder anyway.
Fill your hopper, tube, platform, or ground feeder with the sunflower kernels, and enjoy watching finches, titmice, sparrows, grosbeaks, buntings, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, doves, and other favorite species gather for the feast.
Editor’s note: This item is temporarily out of stock. We will continue to update inventory.
The best wild bird seed to attract finches
If you love small songbirds like the American goldfinch, fill your feeders with Wagner’s Nyjer Seed Premium Wild Bird Food and listen to their happy singing.
Pros: Appeals to small songbirds, little waste, won’t sprout if it falls to the ground
Cons: Spoils easily, can be messy
Available quantities: 2-, 5- 10-, 20-, or 50-pound bag
Tiny black nyjer seed — also called thistle seed — is a favorite among small songbirds, including the beautiful yellow, black, and white American goldfinch. Wagner’s Nyjer Seed Premium Wild Bird Food also attracts house finches, purple finches, redpolls, indigo buntings, and pine siskins.
Because the seed is so small, it’s generally served out of thistle feeders or sock feeders specifically designed to dispense seeds without allowing larger “bully” birds to hog all the food.
Small songbirds can easily pull the nyjer seeds out of the feeder’s small ports or mesh, but larger birds can’t get a grip or perch, so give up in frustration.
Since nyjer spoils fairly easily and can be somewhat messy, it’s best to only provide enough for birds to eat within a day or so.
The best wild bird seed to attract cardinals
Northern cardinals will fly to your feeder full of Kaytee Safflower Seed, as it includes the breed’s much-loved seed: safflower.
Pros: Attracts cardinals and other strong-beaked birds, squirrels generally leave it alone
Cons: Appeals to a smaller variety of birds than other seed types, messy shells drop under the feeder
Available quantity: 5-pound bag
If you live in the eastern half of the United States, you can have northern cardinals regularly visit your backyard. The bright red plumage of the male cardinal is so distinctive that you don’t need birding knowledge to recognize it. Females aren’t as brightly colored but are still beautiful with yellow-gray bodies and soft brown tails and wings.
While cardinals are happy to dine on several types of bird seed, they go crazy for safflower. That’s why filling your hopper, platform, or hanging feeder with Kaytee Safflower Seed is likely to bring them calling. Other common birds that like safflower include grosbeaks, jays, and woodpeckers.
Because safflower seeds have thick shells, many other backyard birds will pass them by. You may find discarded shells under your feeder, which is common with miniature seeds such as these. And, wonderfully enough, squirrels will typically leave safflower seed alone.
The best wild bird food to attract bluebirds
If you want to attract bluebirds to your yard, you’ll need to skip the seed and tempt them with freeze-dried Kaytee Mealworms Wild Bird Food.
Pros: Appeals to bluebirds and other insect-eating species
Available quantity: 17.6-ounce bag
Bluebirds don’t eat a lot of seeds and prefer insects or other high-protein foods instead. Kaytee Mealworms Wild Bird Food appeals to eastern, western, and mountain bluebirds, as well as cardinals, robins, wrens, and woodpeckers.
Mealworms are derived from beetle larvae. Since they are freeze-dried — as opposed to alive — most people find it easy to add them to their feeders.
While the worms are an excellent food source for bluebirds all year round, they are especially appreciated during the spring nesting season, when the parent birds need extra food for their young.
These mealworms are perfect for a platform or hanging tray. Don’t pour out too much at once, as these are a supplement to the bluebirds’ diet, not a mainstay.
Check out our other birdwatcher buying guides