Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
I keep hearing that I should be offering my bird a good-quality seed mix. How do I tell a high-quality seed mix from a poor-quality one?
Seed mixes can and do vary. One criterion for determining a good-quality seed mix is by attempting to sprout the seeds. Fresh seed will easily sprout, and older seeds might not.
Sunflower seed can be very small black seed-hulls or the hull can be much larger, with the shell striped black and white. The smaller black sunflower seeds are higher in fat, so the larger striped variety are a bit healthier. Seed mix might also contain safflower seeds instead of sunflower, often touted as more healthy, but safflower and sunflower are not that different in composition. However, safflower is a more bitter seed, so many birds tend to eat less of that seed.
When evaluating a seed mix, also look for good ingredients. This means that the seeds are intact, with no evidence of mold or insect damage. Some seeds have small holes bored into them at one end by insects feeding on the seed inside the hulls. Seed mix with a lot of dust in the bottom of the bag can also indicate poor-quality seeds, as this dust can be the remnants of insect damage. Some grain beetles are found in bags of seed, or you might just observe their little corpses in the bottom of the bag.
A good seed mix usually has other ingredients, such as fresh nuts (preferably not peanuts), dried fruit and/or pellets.
Don’t worry if you find little tiny inchworm-looking critters that turn into moths. These are quite common in seed mixes during certain seasons, but they won’t affect the quality of the seeds. If the little larvae are accidentally consumed, the bird will just receive a bit extra protein.
Seed mixes come custom blended, as bagged seed (usually in 25- or 50-pound sealed bags), or as bulk seed from bins in the pet store. How the seed is stored before and after purchase can affect the quality, as well.
Want to learn more about bird food?
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