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Which bird seed?

Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
December 5, 2018
First time bird feeder owneds here! Buying the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus.

We live near Boston and wants cardinals and other colorful birds to visit the feeder. Only natural seeds, nothing treated or otherwise non natural.

What seed do you recommend?

Comments (34)

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    You will get different birds with different seed mixes to some degree. I liked using hulled sunflower seeds since the dropped hulls killed the plants below the feeder. They seem to have some type of allelopathy that interferes with other plants’ growth.

    Midthread on the thread linked below, Jane AKA Corunum discusses which feeder mixes she uses.


  • Richard Dollard

    I only do the sunflower seed also but buy the one with the hulls, didn't know it came without the hulls. I have tried the mixed blends but they only ate the sunflower seed and spit out the other seeds and they just sprouted below the feeder and made a mess.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    Seems like sunflower seeds are the way to go!

    The seeds that drop, will ground bird eat them, or will I have a small patch of sunflowers to contend with? :)
  • Richard Dollard

    Yes, some birds like mourning doves don't go to the feeder and only eat under the feeder . Most everything that falls gets eaten.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    You may get rodents under the feeder eating spilled seed along with the ground-feeding birds. You may also want to check out baffles to discourage sqirrels and raccoons.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    It will be hung from our second floor porch and I'm buying a "squirrel proof" feeder. Fingers crossed this works!

    We live in the city, there's no shortage of critters to eat the leftover seeds. There are also enough doves and pigeons to block out the sun as the crazy lady down the street throws a loaf of bread into he road every morning for them. Yes, in the road, not the sidewalk or her lawn.... Anyway. Welcome to Boston!
  • mr1010

    I really like Wagner's Greatest Variety Seed and have it free shipped from

    Chewy.com Since i started feeding this I do get a greater variety of birds

    plus they clean it up completely and there's no waste. There's lots of good

    quality seeds and no cheap filler that birds don't eat. I go through 3-4 16 lb.

    bags in a month. If it's colder out, more birds show up and it disappears


  • roxanna7

    If you have an Agway nearby, you can buy single varieties of good seed and mix your own, which I have done for decades. Best types in my opinion are no-hulls sunflower (75%), safflower (esp. for cardinals) (20-25%), and sometimes peanut hearts (5%). Avoid millet in mixes, it's a trash seed generally avoided by the birds. Suet feeders with long "tails" for the woodpeckers.

    I get cardinals, chickadees (of course!), flickers, blue jays, titmice, juncos, goldfinches (get some nyger/thistle seed for them), nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers and sparrows of various kinds. Also mourning doves under the feeders.

    I haven't yet put out my feeders as there have been two sightings of black bears in nearby towns in the past two weeks -- why aren't they hibernating by now?? LOL.

  • susanzone5 (NY)

    The seed that drops to the ground will attract rodents. Rodents carry ticks. Both birds and rodents carry ticks and tick diseases...Lyme, bartonella, babesia, anaplasmosis, etc.

    I have Lyme disease. When I fed the birds I had lots of rodent holes and ticks. I stopped feeding birds and have no rodent holes and no ticks this year.

    I miss the birds but Lyme disease is a horrible horribly painful 24/7 crippling forever disease and believe me, you may want a different winter hobby.

  • Pat z6 SEMich

    susanzone5, food for thought. Thank you.

  • ctgardenguy (Connecticut zone 6)

    I did not know that sunflower seed hulls killed plants. Thanks for the info.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    Bird feeder has been up for almost two weeks now, and still no birds. :(

    We have it loaded with black oil sunflower seeds.

    Is this a tough time of year to attract new birds?
  • mr1010

    In my area 9a/9b only a few birds eat the sunflower seeds- if the seeds are hulled,

    called sunflower hearts, more will eat them. I provide what's called "greatest

    variety seeds" by Wagner, and get a huge variety of birds. It has small, medium and

    large seeds to attract a slew of birds.

    Determine what type birds are living in your area this time of year. Then put out

    their favorite seed. Do you have trees nearby for the birds to perch in and

    scope out the safety of your feeder?

    Any neighborhood cats roaming around your yard?

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    I have it hanging off my second floor porch, they generally perch on the wires on the other side of the porch. Also on the neighbors roof.....
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    It typically takes a bit of time for birds to find a new feeder. Right now, with little snow in much of New England, there is a good amount of natural food available. But also, it will depend on the surroundings. I put up a feeder just outside my classroom one year, but there was no shelter and no nearby perches, and the birds never did use it. So if you add a photo of your setup, you may find you get some suggestions as to how to make it more appealing such as having reasonably close evergreens and/or deciduous shrubs and trees. Your old Christmas tree propped up nearby may help for this season. In my yard pre-bears, I always left some space around the feeders so feral cats couldn’t sneak up on birds, but also had woody plants, especially evergreens, for shelter from aerial predators such as hawks. Or check out the ongoing set of threads “Birds and other mobile features in the garden” to see how others have set up bird feeding areas. One of them is linked upthread and Claire always puts in links to previous threads in as well. Both Claire’s and Jane’s gardens have good examples of the combo of open areas with sheltering plants nearby in their bird feeding zones.

    Another thing that will help attract birds in winter is a heated bird bath, or even a freeze-proof saucer that you refill with hot water a couple of times a day.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    I live in the city. Houses on the sides are 15' apart. Behind us the house across the fence and yard is maybe 100'. Powelines everywhere, hardly any trees.

    I have a huge mulberry out back I could hang it from, but we can't see the mulberry and it defeats the purpose of having a feeder.... Enjoying watching the birds.

    I'll post a photo in a moment....
  • mr1010

    Can you post your approximate location city, state, and we can see which birds

    should be in your area this time of year.

    I've found when I started feeding birds at numerous new locations, I tried to

    provide everything to make the area a "wildlife" attractive area.

    1) shelter- bushes or trees

    2) water source- very important

    3) food for whatever type bird is in my area

    Have you tried the feeder closer to a ground floor location? If you have a yard

    you can get those iron shepherd's hooks and hang a feeder on them. they just

    stick in the ground so you can move them around wherever you want.

  • mr1010

    As a start, here's an Audubon link to common birds in your area in fall and winter.

    I'm not familiar with your feeder type except for nyjer seeds for goldfinches.

    Usually I use some type of platform feeder that birds can relax and sit on while eating.


  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Maybe get a sale/discount artificial Christmas tree to put on the porch as a perch and shelter. Right now the area is really exposed and may feel dangerous to birds since there is no way to hide from predators. If you have a ground floor site near a window, add a shepherd’s hook or post to add another birdfeeder. You would want it to have shrubs there as well. A full sized tree isn’t needed, but something to protect the birds as needed will make the feeder more welcoming.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    Shephard hook toward the inside of the porch, so they are covered by a roof more?
  • mr1010

    OK after seeing your feeder close up I wonder if part of the problem is

    birds don't see or smell the seeds and would have to come up close

    to check them out.

    I would probably modify this feeder to make it more bird friendly.

    take an old pie plate and glue it on the bottom of feeder so it holds seed

    and birds will have a bigger area to perch and eat. Birds will see the

    seed much easier. Also I'd get a good variety seed mixture for more

    than just sunflower eaters. Check out the Wagner brand "Greatest Variety"

    on Chewy.com website. they have free delivery over $49.

    I think w/ these changes you'll soon see some nice visitors.

  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I don’t think that birds look at a roof as shelter. You need something with multiple branches that allows a bird to hide within and that will protect them from a hawk. That is why I suggested an artificial evergreen.

    Shepherd’s hook would be for hanging a ground level feeder if you also live on the ground floor of your building.

    i don’t think that your actual seed mix is the issue since it will pull in quite a range of feeder birds. I think time and a friendlier site will do the trick.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    Ground floor doesn't satusfy us, the humans. If they want seed they'll have to eat upstairs. :)

    Honestly, the loads of grids normally here the rest of the year aren't around. There's usually several Jay's, cardinals, finches, etc all on the other side of our house in the mulberry tree... Once winter comes they are gone!

    Hopefully they'll find the feeder, trust it's safe and utilize the seed we have.

    Modifying this isn't an option, the squirrels around here are too many to count and are ruthless. Climbing all over everything and chewing everything. Not wanting to set them up for success. They are the reason I bought this crazy feeder to begin with..... To keep them OUT.
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    So I am not clear on why not have a ground level feeder. Is it because of the squirrels or because for some other reason you prefer it on the second floor? There are some fairly effective ways to discourage the squirrels, a range of baffles and slinky type objects. There are also feeders that when a squirrel jumps on it, close up.

    It sounds like you feel like it’s the birds’ task to find and use your feeder, but if you don’t make it attractive to them in the siting, you may not get many visitors.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    We can't see the ground floor. We have 2nd and 3rd floor only.

    Our feeder is one of those, they jump on it it closes. :)

    How can I make it more attractive, where it is? I don't want bushes on our porch, come summer there will be plenty of plants and container veggies out there
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    OK, now I’m clear on why you are restricted to the second floor.

    I might set out a flat board with seeds on it if the squirrels don’t climb up to your porch. That will make the seed more visible to help the birds find it as mr1010 suggested. Once they find food, they should return. Putting out a shallow pan of warm water will often draw birds before food when it is below freezing. Anything that will provide the type of shelter birds like or extra perches will help them feel more comfortable.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    As in brown cardboard? I did toss some seed on the sidewalk and bushes below..... Didn't seem to help much! Haha!

    Will they see it on the porch, behind the railing and under the roof?

    I want to attract them and I understand once they learn, they'll return.
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I was thinking something that would sit on the porch rail and would be weather resistant. Perhaps a pie tin held on with a C clamp. Or if you want to get really fancy and are handy:


  • Pat z6 SEMich

    NHBabs, that is so cool. Wish I had a railing to put it on.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    That deck rail feeder is gorgeous! My railings are plastic and curved on top, not sure it would work....which is a good thing because I almost pressed the purchase button!
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    I think the bracing on either side of the rail would hold it, even with a rounded top to the rail. You could always ask the maker since Etsy gives a way to contact them. You could also try somewhere like a big box store to see what they have for platform feeders or even somewhere like a local nature type store.

    You also might be able to jury rig something using bungee cords or a C clamp or even a small piece of plywood and 2x4s and a couple of nails. You might not need this long term and I hate to see you spend a lot of money on this. It might just be a matter of having the feeder available earlier in the season so that they continue coming in cold weather. It may just me a matter of patience.

  • Treegeek Z6a (Boston)
    There's a Mass Audobon over at Drumlin that I'll pop into this week or next. Our neighborhood has no birds at the moment, it's weird. Up until the leaves dropped we had more cardnilas, finches, pigeons, and jays than I could count!

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