Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What kind of birds like to eat cracked corn?

I recently bought some non-messy bird food to try out in my feeders.

This also coincided with my move from San Diego to SW Washington State.

The birds in San Diego (mostly finches) eagerly ate the sunflower seeds and some of the other seeds, but left behind all of the cracked corn.

Here in SW Washington, all the seed was eaten quickly, including the cracked corn.

That makes me ask: What kind of birds eat cracked corn?

Here's what I found out:

Quails, pheasants, and doves like to eat cracked corn. Some birds considered pests also love to eat cracked corn, including house sparrows, cowbirds, and red-winged blackbirds. Most other birds only eat cracked corn if nothing better is available, if at all.


Photo of bird feeder with cracked corn left uneaten
Birds didn't eat the cracked corn in the bird seed mix.

Cracked corn in bird seed


Cracked corn is exactly as it sounds. Dried corn kernels are crushed and broken. It is used as bird food.

As you can see in the above photo, the birds at my feeder ate all the nuts and sunflower seeds and millet from the bird seed mix. They didn't eat the cracked corn, however. It was left behind, uneaten.

So, then, why do bird seed mixes contain cracked corn?

It is true that some birds do eat cracked corn.

However, the main reason that there is cracked corn in bird seed is that it is very cheap compared to other seeds. Yes, corn is a cheap filler.

Many people do choose bird seed with a low price for feeding birds. After all, it does cost money to feed birds. And there are many important places for people's income to go first, before feeding birds.
Especially in the no-mess bird seed I bought, cracked corn is one of a few low-cost totally-edible seeds.


Kinds of birds that eat cracked corn


In my San Diego yard, no birds ate the cracked corn. A few should have, but didn't. Perhaps it was because it was summer.

But when I got to Washington State the same bird seed using the same feeder was gobbled up! What was the difference?

What kinds of birds eat cracked corn?


Photo of Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey. Greg Gillson.

Chicken-like birds love to eat cracked corn


That includes birds such as California Quail, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Wild Turkeys. These are often found near residential areas. They will eat cracked corn on the ground or from large low platform feeders.

Some forest birds like Ruffed Grouse, Mountain Quail, Dusky Grouse, and Sooty Grouse will eat cracked corn, if you live in such an area.

Desert birds such as Gambel's Quail, Scaled Quail, and Montezuma's Quail will eat cracked corn.


Photo of Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson

Pigeons and Doves love eat cracked corn


That includes the very widespread Mourning Dove. But White-winged Doves in the desert, Band-tailed Pigeons in the mountain West, and Domestic Pigeons in cities eat cracked corn.

There are several other doves in the south that may come to feeders and eat cracked corn. One such is the Common Ground Dove.


Photo of Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.

Blackbirds love to eat cracked corn


Red-winged Blackbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds really love cracked corn. Other blackbirds such as Brewer's Blackbird and Rusty Blackbirds may visit feeders for cracked corn.

European Starlings love cracked corn.

Common Grackles eat cracked corn.

Brown-headed Cowbirds will eat cracked corn.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on the ground
Dark-eyed Junco. Greg Gillson.

Some sparrows eat cracked corn


Dark-eyed Juncos love cracked corn.

Chipping Sparrows, Field Sparrows, and Song Sparrows eat cracked corn.

White-crowned Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows sometimes eat cracked corn.

Northern Cardinals will eat cracked corn.

Eastern and Spotted Towhees may eat cracked corn. Canyon and California Towhees will eat cracked corn.


Photo of a House Sparrow on a wire fence
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

House Sparrows like to eat cracked corn


These European birds in the Weaver family are not closely related to the native New World Sparrows.


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch crawling upside-down on a tree branch
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson.

Nuthatches will eat cracked corn


White-breasted Nuthatches like cracked corn.

Red-breasted Nuthatches aren't as fond of it, but will occasionally eat cracked corn, if the sunflower seeds are gone.


Photo of a House Finch
House Finch. Greg Gillson.

Finches sometimes eat cracked corn


American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins have been documented eating cracked corn. But it is a bit large for them.

House Finches and Purple Finches will eat cracked corn, but it's not their favorite.


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson.

Chickadees sometimes eat cracked corn


Both Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees have been reported doing so. But it's not their favorite.

This should probably be the case for Mountain and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, too.


Photo of Steller's Jay in the grass
Steller's Jay. Greg Gillson.

Jays eat cracked corn


Steller's Jays and California Scrub-Jays eat cracked corn.

Blue Jays may eat cracked corn.

Black-billed Magpies and American Crows will eat cracked corn.


Conclusion


Cracked corn is a cheap filler for bird seed mixtures.

Many types of birds will eat cracked corn. But it is not the favorite for most of them. That may mean that they won't eat it as fast. Or they may throw it out on the ground.

The common birds that really love cracked corn are European Starlings, House Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds. These 3 are often considered undesirable at bird feeders. They tend to be aggressive and messy. These birds also love sunflower seeds and millet. So it is difficult to discourage them (but see my related articles below).

Three other common feeder birds that like cracked corn fairly well are Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, and White-breasted Nuthatches. But they all like black oil sunflower seeds and hulled sunflowers better.

Do you want to feed cracked corn in your mixed bird seed? Yes, if you want less costly bird seed. No, if you want to feed the birds what they really like and want to discourage House Sparrows, Starlings, and blackbirds.

In San Diego, at my bird feeder, I had mostly House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches. The Mourning Doves and California Towhees had a hard time getting up on my small feeder. Thus, the birds ate the millet and sunflower seeds first, and really didn't eat much of the cracked corn.

On the other hand, when I moved to Washington, there was a small flock of House Sparrows. So they probably ate most of the cracked corn. And other birds ate the rest of the food, including House Finches, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and several other species.

Here is the no-mess bird seed with lots of cracked corn that I was discussing at the beginning of the article.




Look for a review of this bird seed in the future.



Related:

Get rid of grackles, blackbirds, and starlings from your feeder

What bird seeds do birds really love?



2 comments:

  1. Thanks Greg. I am feeding in North County San Diego. Cracked corn is my new purchase. I have lesser goldfinches and house finches eating nyger/small sunflower. I have doves, California towhee, Oregon juncos. The doves are eating safflower & medium sunflower. The towhee is grabbing suet nuggets. Juncos eating millet. Still trying to see who will eat the cracked corn. Those spoiled San Diego birds. ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fun to experiment with different bird foods, isn't it?

      I just purchased white millet and hulled sunflower chips in an effort to create a non-messy bird seed mix with no cracked corn.

      Look for an article on my results in the future!

      Delete

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