What do birds eat? Here's what to offer to bring the most birds to your yard.

·3 min read

More than 52 million Americans feed wild birds or other wildlife around their houses, according to Bird Watching Daily. More than 80% of about 1,300 participants surveyed by Millikin University said they fed birds in order to bring nature, beauty and bird sounds to their areas.

Birds can also be great for gardens, as they provide an insect removal service that doesn’t rely on toxic chemicals, according to the Orange County Register.

Whether you’re trying to beautify your garden or rescue a baby bird that has fallen from its nest, here’s the information you need.

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What do birds eat?

Various species of birds eat the following, according to Celebrate Urban Birds:

  • Seeds

  • Berries

  • Fruit

  • Insects

  • Other birds

  • Eggs

  • Small mammals

  • Fish

  • Buds

  • Larvae

  • Aquatic invertebrates

  • Acorns

  • Other nuts

  • Aquatic vegetation

  • Grain

  • Dead animals

  • Garbage

  • And much more

But not all of these foods are for the songbirds you might want in your yard. During spring and summer, songbirds primarily eat insects and spiders, according to Celebrate Urban Birds. During the fall and winter, birds that don’t migrate typically eat fruits and seeds.

If you’re buying birdseed for your garden birds, avoid mixtures containing split peas, beans or dried rice, as well as pink or green lumps, which are likely dog biscuits. These ingredients are often added to cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up, but they are not edible for many birds, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Homemade: Want to attract hummingbirds in your yard? This hummingbird food recipe is a great start.

If you’re buying birdseed for your garden birds, avoid mixtures that have split peas, beans, or dried rice, as well as pink or green lumps, which are likely dog biscuits.
If you’re buying birdseed for your garden birds, avoid mixtures that have split peas, beans, or dried rice, as well as pink or green lumps, which are likely dog biscuits.

What birds eat safflower seeds?

The following birds may be inclined to stick around your backyard if you make safflower seeds readily available, according to The Spruce:

  • Black-capped chickadees

  • Black-headed grosbeaks

  • Blue jays

  • Carolina chickadees

  • Downy woodpeckers

  • Evening grosbeaks

  • House finches

  • Indigo buntings

  • Mourning doves

  • Northern cardinals

  • Purple finches

  • Red-bellied woodpeckers

  • Rose-breasted grosbeaks

  • Tufted titmice

  • White-breasted nuthatches

Safflower seeds won’t attract the kinds of birds you might want to keep away, according to The Spruce. Grackles, blackbirds and European starlings are typically uninterested in these seeds, allowing you to provide food to some of the above songbirds without creating an incentive for these “bully birds” to overcrowd your feeders.

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What birds eat mealworms?

The following birds eat mealworms, according to Birds and Bloom:

  • Bluebirds

  • Chickadees

  • Thrushes

  • Titmice

  • Wrens

  • Nuthatches

  • Kinglets

If you’re feeding birds mealworms, live worms may be the most effective — though dried mealworms are cheaper and require no work to maintain, according to Birds and Bloom.

Can birds eat bread?

Feeding bread to birds can be risky. According to Birds and Blooms, mold, which develops quickly on bread, can cause serious problems for birds. Larger pieces of bread can also block a bird’s digestive tract. For these reasons, you should not feed bread to most birds.

You should also avoid feeding birds any of these foods, according to Birds and Bloom:

  • Raw meat

  • Seeds and nuts sold for people

  • Bacon fat

  • Potato chips

  • Honey

  • Red food coloring

  • Old birdseed

  • Pet food

What do baby birds eat?

Baby birds mostly eat the same foods as their parents, including worms, insects and seeds, according to PawTracks.

If you’ve rescued a baby bird that has fallen from its nest, you can also use puppy food that has been soaked in water until it is spongy, says PawTracks. Make sure not to feed a rescued baby bird water, milk, bread, other bakery products or kitchen waste.

Just curious? We're here to answer your everyday questions.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What do birds eat? What to offer to get the most birds to your yard.