The Best Bird Seed For Wild Birds in Winter

Wildlife needs high-energy food in winter to survive. A suitable mix for wild birds should include black-oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and cracked corn for maximum impact at feeders like tube, hopper or platform feeders.

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Finches love Niger seed, commonly referred to as thistle seeds. Unfortunately, however, it requires an expensive tube feeder in order to feed their favourite treat.


Sunflower Seed

Sunflower seed is a popular addition to most bird feeders and one of the best ways to attract winter birds. Rich in fats and energy sources, sunflower seeds provide birds with enough food during colder weather months to meet their caloric requirements.

Chickadees, nuthatches and finches often prefer black oil sunflower seeds over their striped counterparts due to their easier shell cracking capabilities and higher levels of oil and nutrition than striped varieties – making black oil sunflower seeds an optimum choice for birds.

If you’re hoping to attract northern cardinals and woodpeckers, select a premium blend featuring white proso millet, cracked corn, peanuts and thistle/nyjer. Suet can provide winter birds with essential energy sources, like nuthatches, finches and titmice; all can easily be found at quality bird feed stores online or locally.


Due to limited insect, berry, and fruit sources in winter months, birds require high fat foods for energy. Consider offering goldfinches and house finches niger seed (also called thistle seed) or peanuts and suet.

Thompson suggests placing de-shelled peanuts in a tray feeder or on deck railings to attract woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice to your backyard. Also try offering peanut hearts–the small chips that break off when breaking open a peanut–as many species prefer these too!

Thompson suggests shopping at Wild Birds Unlimited for high-quality mixed bird feed that includes black sunflower “oilseeds”, white proso millet, cracked corn and peanut pieces as well as thistle or niger seeds for winter finches and pine siskins. Suet blocks provide woodpeckers, chickadees and other backyard birds with high-fat protein-rich food sources in winter – either purchased premade at stores selling bird seed or even made yourself by stuffing an empty coconut shell with lard and seed!

Safflower Seed

Cardinals love this white seed’s slightly bitter flavor, which helps deter squirrels. Additionally, its non-messing nature makes it suitable for tray and open-faced tube feeders.

Safflower seeds may present some difficulty for birds to break open, yet cardinals and chickadees love these thicker shelled seeds as do woodpeckers, native sparrows, and grosbeaks. Safflower seeds also provide valuable sources of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – providing fuel throughout winter for wild birds!

While some bird enthusiasts enjoy mixing their own blend of different types of bird feed, it may be simpler and less costly to purchase a complete bird food mix from your local store. Look for high-quality mixes containing black oil sunflower seeds, striped sunflower seed (BOSS), peanuts, thistle/nyjer and any other ingredients likely to attract winter wild birds in your area.


Suet is high in fat content, giving birds access to energy sources during periods of food scarcity such as winter. These reserves provide both immediate energy needs as well as those needed for later on during cold spells.

There is a wide range of suet feeders on the market today. Some are designed specifically for certain bird species, like finch-friendly nyjer seed feeders or woodpecker suet cages; others can hang from trees or other locations, like logs with predrilled holes for suet (or bags of nuggets in plastic), cakes or logs filled with suet.

Suet can be fed year-round, but its appeal increases significantly during winter when other seeds may be scarcer. Many people report seeing an increase in bird species visiting their yard when offering suet – many also noticed an increase in species! It is essential to avoid providing moldy suet, however; that can prove deadly for birds. Keep suet dry by not allowing it to sit in pools of water such as on bird platforms or feeders.