Excerpted from "The Need for Seed” in "Popular Birding Series: Backyard Birding,” published by BirdChannel.com publisher I-5 Publishing LLC.
The best backyard birdseed mixes have a strong black-oil sunflower seed base.
Food for backyard birds can be offered in mixes, and the best backyard birdseed mixes have a strong black-oil sunflower seed base. Always try to purchase backyard birdseed mixes that are mostly dark in color; that is a sign that the mix has mostly black-oil sunflower seeds.
Beware of birdseed mixes in packages that don't allow you to see the contents, especially if they are at an unbelievably low price. The mix could be full of filler seeds that will not attract a wide variety of backyard birds. A good, all-purpose mix will be 75 percent sunflower seed, 10 percent millet seed, 10 percent safflower seed and 5 percent peanuts or white millet seed.
Unless you want to attract quail, waterfowl or turkeys, avoid birdseed mixes that are mostly yellow or orange. That might mean the bird seed mix could be filled with less popular bird seeds to lower the price.
If you live in a condominium or an apartment, you might want to try "hulless” or "no mess” backyard birdseed mixes. These usually contain seeds out of the shell, including sunflower hearts, peanuts and cracked corn.
Some birdseed packagers are developing high-end mixes that have sunflower seeds, mixed nuts, dried fruits and, in some cases, dried mealworms. Backyard birds will eat these mixes, but they cost more than the average songbird seed mix. These seed mixes seem to work best in hopper-style or tray bird feeders, as the fruit sometimes becomes lodged in feeding ports of tube feeders, blocking a backyard bird’s access to the bird seed.
Some birdseed mixes will be fruit-flavored and have a strong berry or citrus aroma. This is mainly for human benefit, as most backyard birds have a poorly developed sense of smell. Backyard birds will eat the bird seed, but the aroma is more to attract the humans than the birds.