Bird Feed Basics

Feeding birds is a delight for bird admirers to watch them feed and know that they are helping our feathered friends. Feeding is especially helpful to birds in the winter, when food sources are limited. It’s best to provide a variety of seed in an area that is somewhat protected with nearby plants. It’s also helpful to provide a source of water for drinking and bathing. Be sure to keep feeders and baths clean to help prevent the spread of illness or disease.

We carry bird feeders at both our Cottage Grove and Edgerton locations, and carry bird food only at our Edgerton location. At Edgerton, we carry quality bird food from DeLong, which is harvested in the U.S. and mixes are locally manufactured in Clinton, WI.

Types of Bird Food

Sunflower Seed

Black-oil sunflower seed is the most common type of seed. It’s high in energy with a thin shell, which is preferred by a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers. Striped sunflower seeds attract cardinals, grosbeaks, jays, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Hulled sunflower seeds are highly prized by all seed-eaters.


A very small, round seed often found in seed mixes, and a favorite of many smaller, ground foraging birds. The millet plant can also be grown as an annual, producing seed on a stalk that sparrows and juncos will visit regularly to feed.


Birds enjoy peanuts either shelled or in the shell. Raw or roasted peanuts are good, but avoid salted peanuts, or those that have been roasted with any coatings or flavorings. Larger birds may grab a few at a time and hide them somewhere for later. Smaller birds are more successful with shelled peanuts.

Thistle (Nyjer) Seed

Attracts a wide variety of finches, and excludes larger birds. The small size of the seed requires a special feeder with very small feeding holes to prevent it from falling on the ground, and it’s best offered on it’s own rather than in a mix.


Suet is good for attracting insect-eating birds, which is usually made from beef kidney fat and often mixed with seeds. Good source of energy in the winter. Place in a special suet cage.


Many species of birds are attracted to fruit. Orioles enjoy the juice and flesh of oranges cut in half, or grape jelly in a shallow container. Many birds are attracted to grapes, currants, raisins, apples, berries, cherries, and bananas.


Good for fruit or nectar feeding birds such as orioles and hummingbirds. For hummingbirds, mix one part sugar to four parts boiling water and stir, using less sugar for orioles. Allow to cool and fill feeder, storing extra sugar water in the refrigerator for up to one week. Red food coloring is unnecessary and possibly harmful to birds. The feeder just needs to have some red part to attract hummingbirds. Wash nectar feeder with hot water each time feeder is refilled to prevent mold.

Types of Feeders

Tube Feeder

Cylinder with multiple feeding ports and perches. Short perches are good for small birds, but exclude larger birds. Feeding ports vary in size depending on the type of seed used. Thistle (nyjer) seed requires very small feeding ports to prevent spillage.

Hopper Feeder

A hopper feeder is a platform with a roof to protect seed from the weather. Large hoppers are for all birds, whereas small hoppers are for small birds and exclude large birds.

Nectar Feeder

Nectar feeders have small holes to dispense nectar and are usually colored red to attract hummingbirds. This type of feeder needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent mold.

Suet Feeder

A cage designed to hold a special suet block to allow birds to feed directly.

Oriole Feeder

An orange feeder with a place for nectar, orange halves, and sometimes shallow dips for grape jelly.