How to Choose Birdseed

Birdseed typesWhen it comes to feeding the wild birds at your balcony garden birdfeeder, you may pick up the cutest or cheapest bird feeder (or even make your own), and purchase some cheap birdseed. Although it may work on one or two species of common wild birds, this is not the best way to go about attracting birds to your balcony container garden.


Before you can successfully feed the wild birds, you must know the following four things:

1. What birds are in your area (and which will come to birdfeeders)
2. Which of these wild birds you can and want to attract
3. How these birds feed
4. What these birds eat

House finches, for example, are common in the United States. They will come to just about any birdfeeder, but to provide them with the best feeding conditions, you will want to put out a clean birdfeeder that is intended for dispensing their food type. Tube feeders with perches and larger holes will accommodate black-oil sunflower seed, and house finches will be attracted to this type of feeder. Black-oil sunflower seed is high in fat, giving birds energy, and many other wild birds can also be attracted to this type of seed. It is the most recommended seed for birdfeeders.

Other birdfeeder types, such as finch sock feeders or Nyger tubes hold Nyger quite well and will attract wild birds such as goldfinches. (Sock feeders will stretch and spill seed out onto the floor, while tube feeders will hold their shape and hold seed in more sufficiently.) Goldfinches will not feed from a house finch feeder (unexpected birds may come if they are absolutely starving), and house finches will not feed from a goldfinch birdfeeder.

Purchasing seed at the store can be a confusing experience if you don’t know what you need. It is a mistake to go with the cheap foods, as your wild birds will only eat about 40 percent of it. They will make a mess on the balcony garden floor, which includes corn and other seeds they won’t eat. Seeds that fall around your container plants may start to grow, and you will have to weed out unwanted growth. To offer food that the wild birds will eat, to cut down on your gardening maintenance chores and to get more bang for your buck, choose a more expensive birdseed instead of a general feed. (Sometimes the cheaper brands will have food for birds that live thousands of miles away!) You may want to choose a shelled “No Mess” seed that will cut down on the mess. One tip to finding a good seed is to look at the color. Black-oil sunflower seed has a rich black color, while inexpensive seeds are dull and have gray sunflower seeds (which are sparse within the mix).

You may need to set out different birdfeeders and different mixes, and then wait for the bird scouts to find your birdfeeders. Other appropriate foods to offer are Proso millet, peanuts, eggshells, fresh fruit and suet, depending on the types of wild birds in your area. Once you learn what birds live in your area, which ones you want to attract, how they eat and what they eat, you can make the right choices to providing the appropriate foods for them. And before you know it, you will have flocks of wild birds visiting your small balcony container garden. To learn more about how to maintain a balcony garden once a flock is established, read "Wild Bird Maintenance."

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