Bird food

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"Bird seed" redirects here. For the Whitehouse album, see Bird Seed (album).
A mixture of seeds in a bird feeder

Bird food is food (often varieties of seeds, nuts, dried fruits or dried larvae) eaten by birds. The most important use of bird feed globally, is as feed for domesticated poultry. However (especially in developed countries), people also make or buy bird food to feed to pet birds or use in birdfeeders for wild birds.

Bird food can be natural or commercial. ingredients reflect the species of bird being fed, which include fruit, seed, and nectar eaters, and carnivores. Nectar eating birds draw their nutrients from flowers, while carnivores subsist variously on insects, worms, and small wildlife, including other birds and their young..[1][2] Feeding wild birds contains the risk the animals may become reliant on the feeders, rather than going hunting for insects and their natural diets.[3] Bird food can also potentially attract rodents.



Bushtits eating suet from a bird feeder


Black sunflower seeds are highly recommended for use in bird feeders because they attract a wide variety of birds, have a high ratio of meat to shell, and are high in fat content.[4][5] Other common bird seeds include Niger, or thistle seed, a favorite of goldfinches, millet for sparrows and juncos, and safflower for cardinals, among others.[4][5]


Suet is recommended for insect-eating birds like nuthatches and woodpeckers.[4] Artificial nectar – essentially sugar water – attracts hummingbirds.[4] Bread and kitchen scraps are often fed to ducks and gulls. Chickens are commonly fed maize, wheat, barley, sorghum and milling by-products, in a mixture traditionally called chicken scratch.

These seeds and non-seed supplies are commonly obtained as by-products on farms, but can also be bought from independent retailers.



Commercial bird food is widely available for feeding wild and domesticated birds, both seed combinations and pellets.[5][6]

When feeding wild birds the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)[7] suggests that it be done year round, with different mixes of nutrients being offered each season. Selections should have additional fat content in the Winter months, and additional proteins in the form of nuts, seeds and dried worms in Summer when birds are changing their plumage and may be molting.


Main article: Poultry feed

Farmed birds fed commercial bird food typically are given very specific scientifically designed preblended feed. Examples of commercial bird food for chickens include chick starter medicated crumbles, chick grower crumbles, egg layer mash, egg layer pellet, egg layer crumbles, egg producer pellet, and broiler maker med crumbles.[clarification needed] Pellet crumbles are often prepared for tiny chicks. Mash is more finely ground.


  1. ^ "Gardening Australia - Fact Sheet: Bird-Attracting Plants". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  2. ^ Mccracken, D. I.; Tallowin, J. R. (2004-11-01). "Swards and structure: the interactions between farming practices and bird food resources in lowland grasslands". Ibis. 146: 108–114. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2004.00360.x. ISSN 1474-919X. 
  3. ^ "To feed or not to feed? | BIRDS in BACKYARDS". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  4. ^ a b c d What to Feed Birds and Seeds and Grains for Birds. Project FeederWatch. Retrieved on August 23, 2006
  5. ^ a b c Porter, Diane. Winter Bird Feeder: Keep Them Coming Back. Retrieved on August 23, 2006.
  6. ^ Choosing Bird Food. All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved on August 23, 2006.
  7. ^ "When to feed wild birds". The RSPB. Retrieved 2016-03-02. 

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