Must Haves


Tested and Trusted Products for Backyard Birders

Our Must Have products are the items that Lindy uses in her own backyard. She puts every product through her own rigorous quality tests that determine value, durability, sustainability, safety and use by her feathered (and furry) friends. She offers honest and non-biased opinions based upon her own experiences.

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Best Bird Seeds


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    I love putting out mealworms from time to time when high energy food is essential. Springtime baby birds benefit greatly from this high protein food source. Kaytee Mealworms are my top choice for ready-to-serve bug munchies without the squirm!

    These aren’t as scary as they look. Kaytee Mealworms are brown, a few inches long, and oven-dried to a crunchy perfection. Mealworms, derived from the larvae of the darkling beetle, will attract bluebirds, wrens, robins, chickadees, woodpeckers, and cardinals.

    The versatile part about mealworms is that you can serve them alone in a specialized mealworm feeder or you can mix them in with your wild bird food. I broadcast a handful on the ground, too, for my springtime ground feeders. I recommend starting out with a small bag of mealworms to grow interest amongst your feathered friends.

    Free of preservatives and additives.

    Buy at Amazon - 3.5 oz Buy at Petsmart - 7 oz JC's Wildlife Best Mealworm Feeders

    If you’re looking for a premium-grade black oil sunflower seed to offer your feathered friends, then Lyric is your answer. I am a huge fan of all Lyric brand products due to their commitment to manufacturing excellence and sustainability. This is an exceptional seed for year-round feeding and provides birds with energy rich nutrition to thrive all season long. Plus, Lyric black oil sunflower seeds are grown entirely in the United States (their current grower is in South Dakota).

    Remember that sunflowers come in striped and black varieties. The black oil seeds contain a higher level of fat and a thinner shell than striped seeds. These seeds are ideal for a wide variety of feeders; ground, platform, tube, pavilion and hoppers.

    While there are several brands of black oil seeds that I use in my feeders (Kaytee, Audobon, Wagners), Lyric is the highest quality of the group. I haven’t cracked the mystery of why quite yet, but sunflower seeds always contain woody and plant-like debris in the bags. You’ll see that in all the brands I’ve listed, Lyric included.

    Black oil sunflower seeds will attract a huge variety of birds to your yard (and furry critters, too). If you had to choose one seed to offer year round, this would be it. The hulls produce a lot of waste, so practice frequent housecleaning. Experts say to avoid composting hull seeds. Cleanup can be made easier with natural hull-digester products.

    Buy at Chewy Learn About Hull Digesters at Amazon

    The slender black nyjer seed (sometimes incorrectly referred to as thistle seed) does offer its challenges – and that’s where quality comes in to play as an important factor in your purchase decision. Nyjer’s oily content can lead it to spoil quickly, as can poor storage practices or exposure to moisture.

    I have used Kaytee brand and Lyric brand nyjer seed products. Lyric is my top choice for this seed with Kaytee brand a close second. I prefer Lyric because of their commitment to sustainability and their stringent manufacturing processes including small batch production. Across the board, Lyric brand premium bird seed products are some of the best available on the market.

    Getting the hang of offering nyjer seed requires patience. Buy a good quality nyjer or specialty finch feeder that is easy to clean and keeps seed as dry as possible. Fill your feeder half-way at first and wait for your finches and other small beaked birds to discover this delicious treat. Test different feeder spots if necessary. Believe me, the effort is worth the reward of the fabulous assortment of finches and other birds that will visit you in time. Promptly discard any old, clumped or moldy seeds. Nyjer offers a great way to feed birds with low waste residue. Squirrels are not fans of nyjer, either, which is another reason to give this seed a try.

    All major brands of Nyjer are grown in tropical areas like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi and India. This makes nyjer a more expensive option than domestic seed varieties.


    Buy at Amazon Buy at Chewy

    I wish someone had told me about safflower years ago! This is a great wild bird food if you want to reduce raids by squirrels and other marauding bird species. This small white seed produces little waste and is a favorite of cardinals, junkos, titmice, and grosbeaks. Perfect for a nice tube feeder or platform tray. Take your time and be patient when you set this seed outside in your feeders for the first time. It does take a little while for your birds to discover and become regular feeders of safflower.

    I like both Wagner’s and Kaytee brand safflower seeds (both made in the USA). The Wagner’s brand has a slightly better price on Amazon and Chewy (especially if you establish an auto-ship subscription) so it’s my pick for our must-have category.

    Buy at Amazon Buy at Chewy

    This is one of my (and my wild friends) favorite bird seed products. At fifty-cents per pound (and sometimes less with a BJ’s coupon), this feed delivers a bird-friendly punch without wasteful fillers. This bird seed attracts a wide variety of both perch-feeding and ground-feeding birds such as cardinals, grosbeaks, finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and titmice.

    You’ll find a good mix of seeds including energy-rich black oil sunflower seed, white proso millet, cracked corn, and safflower seeds. There is occasional wood-like waste in the mix, but that is common in lower-priced seeds including sunflower seed products. I have never encountered the annoying dust-like residue that some budget mixed brands contain. Squirrels and other critters are fans of this food. The sunflower seeds produce hull waste so prepare for some housecleaning.

    Offer this seed in a platform, pavilion or hopper feeder. Remember, experts recommend avoiding tube feeders for mixed seed products to help eliminate messy ground waste.

    You can find this mixed seed at your local BJ’s club store or get it delivered. Made in the USA.

    Buy at BJ's BJ's Club Locator Purchase a BJ's Club Membership

    KAYTEE brand seeds are a reliable and widely available product found online and in retail stores. My local supermarket even stocks a wide selection of KAYTEE seeds! I have used this brand frequently, especially during the winter months when your feathered friends will most need this high-fat fuel.

    I am a huge fan of black oil sunflower seeds. They provide a meal rich in essential fats and attract an incredible variety of birds to your feeding stations. Seeds can be offered in a wide range of feeders or even broadcast across a deck, patio or railing.

    While the rewards of offering sunflower seed are substantial, so is the housekeeping. You’ll need to clean empty hulls frequently (and don’t compost them, either). Prepare to calmly surrender to the squirrels and chipmunks who will inevitably join in on the feast, despite your best squirrel-proof feeder strategies. Invite everyone to the table and watch nature at work – it’s amazing.


    Buy at Chewy (20lbs) Buy at Target (10lbs) Buy at Amazon (5lbs)