is cracked corn good for wild birds

The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds, and so the mainstay for most backyard bird feeders, is sunflower. Other varieties of seed can help attract different types of birds to round out your backyard visitors. In general, mixtures that contain red millet, oats, and other “fillers” are not attractive to most birds and can lead to a lot of waste as the birds sort through the mix.

There are two kinds of sunflower—black oil and striped. The black oil seeds (“oilers”) have very thin shells, easy for virtually all seed-eating birds to crack open, and the kernels within have a high fat content, extremely valuable for most winter birds. Striped sunflower seeds have a thicker shell, much harder for House Sparrows and blackbirds to crack open. So if you’re inundated with species you’d rather not subsidize at your black oil sunflower, before you do anything else, try switching to striped sunflower.

People living in apartments or who have trouble raking up seed shells under their feeders often offer shelled sunflower. Many birds love this, as of course do squirrels, and it’s expensive. Without the protection of the shell, sunflower hearts and chips quickly spoil, and can harbor dangerous bacteria, so it’s important to offer no more than can be eaten in a day or two.

Sunflower is very attractive to squirrels, a problem for people who don’t wish to subsidize them. Some kinds of squirrel baffles, and some specialized feeders, are fairly good at excluding them. Sunflower in the shell can be offered in a wide variety of feeders, including trays, tube feeders, hoppers, and acrylic window feeders. Sunflower hearts and chips shouldn’t be offered in tube feeders where moisture can collect.

Safflower has a thick shell, hard for some birds to crack open, but is a favorite among cardinals. Some grosbeaks, chickadees, doves, and native sparrows also eat it. According to some sources, House Sparrows, European Starlings, and squirrels don’t like safflower, but in some areas seem to have developed a taste for it.

Cardinals and grosbeaks tend to prefer tray and hopper feeders, which makes these feeders a good choice for offering safflower.

Small finches including American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls often devour these tiny, black, needle-like seeds. As invasive thistle plants became a recognized problem in North America, suppliers shifted to a daisy-like plant, known as Guizotia abyssinica, that produces a similar type of small, oily, rich seed. The plant is now known as niger or nyjer, and is imported from overseas. The seeds are heat-sterilized during importation to limit their chance of spreading while retaining their food value.

White millet is a favorite with ground-feeding birds including quails, native American sparrows, doves, towhees, juncos, and cardinals. Unfortunately it’s also a favorite with cowbirds and other blackbirds and House Sparrows, which are already subsidized by human activities and supported at unnaturally high population levels by current agricultural practices and habitat changes. When these species are present, it’s wisest to not use millet; virtually all the birds that like it are equally attracted to black oil sunflower.

Because white millet is so preferred by ground-feeding birds, it’s often scattered on the ground—an excellent practice as long as no more is set out than birds can eat in a day. Low-set tray feeders with excellent drainage can be a very good choice for white millet, too.

Shelled and cracked corn

Among the many species that consume corn are the cardinals, grosbeaks, grouse, pheasants, turkeys, quails, jays, doves, ducks, cranes, and crows. Unfortunately, corn has two serious problems. First of all, House Sparrows, cowbirds, starlings, geese, bears, raccoons, and deer all like it; none of them should receive our financial assistance. Second, aflatoxins, which are extremely toxic even at low levels, are most likely to contaminate corn as bird food. Never purchase corn in plastic bags, keep it dry, don’t give it in quantities too large to eat in one sitting during rainy or extremely humid weather, and be sure to rake up any leftover corn.

Check Out Project FeederWatch For More Resources Illustration by Justine Lee Hirten.

Never offer corn covered in a red dye. Corn that is meant to be planted is frequently treated with fungicides and labeled with a warning red dye. It is highly toxic to humans, livestock, and all birds.

Never offer buttered popcorn or any kind of microwave popcorn. Popped corn spoils quickly.

On tray feeders, corn should be provided in relatively small amounts at a time. Don’t offer it in tube feeders that could harbor moisture.

Jays, crows, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, and many other species love peanuts, but squirrels, bears, raccoons, and other animals that shouldn’t be supported also like peanuts. Similar to corn, peanuts are highly likely to contain aflatoxins, so they need to be kept dry and consumed quickly.

If jays arrive at the feeders before the squirrels, you can offer them as a special treat by placing peanuts in their shells on platform feeders, directly on a deck railing, or in a window feeder. In the event that peanuts or mixes of peanuts and other seeds are provided in tube feeders, be sure to regularly replace the seed, especially in the event of rainy or humid weather, and to thoroughly empty and clean the tube each time.

Milo is a favorite with many Western ground-feeding birds. In tests of seed preferences conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Steller’s Jays, Curve-billed Thrashers, and Gambel’s Quails favored milo over sunflower. In a different study, cowbirds consumed milo while house sparrows did not.

Milo ought to be strewn about on low tray feeders or the ground. Stop offering it if you’re subsidizing cowbirds.

What Is Cracked Corn?

is cracked corn good for wild birds

All feeder corn is dried out for long-term storage. Cracked corn is removed from the cob before being ground into smaller bits. Coarse, medium and finely cracked corn are common varieties. See what


What birds will eat cracked corn?

Shelled and cracked corn Corn is eaten by grouse, pheasants, turkeys, quails, cardinals, grosbeaks, crows, ravens, jays, doves, ducks, cranes, and other species.

Will birds and squirrels eat cracked corn?

Cracked Corn: Cracked corn is a simple no mess way to feed many of the birds and wildlife in your backyard. Cracked Corn can be offered year-round in a wide variety of feeders. It is ideal for feeding squirrels, chipmunks, jays, doves and ducks from ground or hanging trays.

Is cracked corn good for wildlife?

With that said, some folks will still feel the need to help out “the poor wildlife.” If you decide that you simply have to feed the deer, at least feed them the right foodstuffs. Whole kernel corn and course cracked corn are good. But the best supplementary food might just be horse pellets.

What is the best bird food for wild birds?

Sunflower seeds are the seeds favored by most seed-eating birds, some 40 species including cardinals, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, house and purple finches, American goldfinches, brown-headed nuthatches, and red-bellied woodpeckers, to name a few.