- Amethyst-throated Mountain-Gem Guide (Lampornis amethystinus) - November 24, 2022
- Best Martin Bird House Guide - November 14, 2022
- Best Millet Bird Seed Guide - November 9, 2022
If you’ve ever seen a stocked bird feeder, chances are you’ve noticed lots of round yellow or red seeds that make up the majority of the birdseed blend. If you continued to observe the feeder, you might have noticed that some birds passed on this seed and continued to dig for the black oil sunflower seeds, nuts, or dried fruit, leaving other birds to eat this seed off the ground happily. While not all types of millet are crowd favorites, there is one type that birds prefer.
There are many different types of bird seeds available, but if your hopes are set high on attracting a bunting or warbler, adding a dedicated millet feeder just might do the trick.
For those busy birders that can’t spare the time to delve deeper into this topic, the top choice for many ground-feeding birds is white proso millet or Panicum miliaceum. You’ll have better success rates attracting a variety of birds if you provide this millet over red millet or milo. Now to understand the differences between these offerings, you’ll need to make some time to circle back and check out the rest of the sweet seeds of knowledge in this guide!
What Is Millet?
Millet refers to types of seeded grasses grown around the world for nearly seven thousand years. Earliest origins begin in eastern and southern Asia and eastern and western Africa. This tolerant grain grows on stalks in warm climates and can endure harsh conditions like drought.
There are several different types of millet that folks might be referring to when discussing this grain in relation to human consumption, but for birding purposes, red, golden, and white proso millet are the primary ones to take note of. Additionally, “spray millet” refers to a millet still intact on the stalk.
Birds Top Pick: White Proso Millet
White Proso Millet is a small round white grain that contains a lot of starch. It is the most popular type of millet that is commonly included in birdseed blends. White proso millet is affordable and easily found in most big box stores. Better yet, it supplies birds with essential nutrition that carries them throughout their busy days.
Nutritional Components of White Proso Millet
When spending my hard-earned money on bird seed, I like to know that it won’t end up on the ground beneath the feeder and that it’s allowing birds a convenient way to get the protein and vitamins they need.
White proso millet offers birds 12 percent protein, 4 percent fat, 8 percent fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, phosphorus, and more!
There isn’t a nutritional downside to supplying white proso millet in your yard; you just want to ensure the demand is there. Keep reading to see the most common birds that indulge in white proso millet. Surely you’ve seen a few of them in your yard already!
Fillers to Avoid: Golden Millet and Red Millet
Golden millet and red millet look very similar to milo and are often used as fillers in your run-of-the-mill wild bird seed mix. The only problem is that these seeds usually go straight to waste because not many birds care for red or golden millet. When you’re shopping for bulk bags of birdseed or exploring new blends, check the ingredients to verify that you’re not buying a big bag of golden or red millet.
By adding cheap fillers, birdseed brands are able to sell you an overpriced bag of seed that only has a handful of black oil sunflower seeds or peanuts. The rest of the blend is likely to be spilled beneath the feeder. A few birds may peck at the seed-covered ground, but even still, the bulk of the blend is pointless.
So what’s the lesson here? Say no to the red and golden millet that is used in birdseed blends.
White Proso Millet vs. Milo
Milo looks somewhat similar to millet but is a large round red seed. It is also referred to as sorghum, which you may be more familiar with if you’re a baker. This is another drought-tolerant cereal grain that grows in grass-like stalks.
In a study conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology focusing on seed preferences between species, Steller’s Jays, Gambel’s Quails, and Curve-billed Thrashers displayed favoritism towards milo when it was stacked against sunflower seeds. Other birds that will tolerate milo are turkeys, doves, and pheasants.
How to Feed Birds Milo
Scatter milo around in loose handfuls directly on the ground or offer it on a ground-level feeding tray. Be vigilant and responsible when feeding birds milo. It is easy to attract invasive species such as cowbirds, starlings, and sparrows. If you notice these birds enjoying the milo offered, the most responsible option is to remove the feeder. You can easily offer other types of seeds that invasive species do not care for, like Nyjer, safflower seeds, or suet blends.
What Type of Birds Does White Proso Millet Attract?
Ground-feeding birds are nearby and waiting for you to get your head out of the clouds and start paying attention to the birds below your feeders. When you fill your bird feeders with birdseed blends, you’ll notice various species stop by to clean up seeds that are immediately thrown on the ground by persnickety birds.
Birds that eat millet come in a wide variety and include:
- Indigo Buntings
- Painted Buntings
- Snow Buntings
- House Finches
- Dark-eyed Juncos
- Carolina Wrens
- Downy Woodpeckers
- Eastern Bluebirds
- Tufted Titmouse
- Red-bellied Woodpeckers
- Eastern Towhees
- Varied Thrushes
- Yellow-throated Warblers
- Mourning Doves
- Northern Cardinals
- Scarlet Tanagers
You’ll notice that a few nuisance birds, like Cowbirds and Starlings, are included on this list. This is another reminder to keep a watchful eye on feeders and ensure you are not subsidizing these birds in your area.
White Proso Millet Feeding Guidelines
It’s a wonderful thing to provide various types of seeds in your backyard oasis. Doing so gives birds options and appeals to a wide array of species which only makes for more exciting bird watching.
When you decide to add a dedicated millet feeder in your yard, you’ll want to follow a few tips to get the most out of this offering.
Millet Feeder Types
Hopper feeders, or house bird feeders, are filled by lifting the hinged rooftop section of the feeder. Seed funnels into a plexiglass dish that empties into a shallow tray. These feeders have perches that allow birds to rest comfortably while feeding. Since millet appeals to ground-feeding and some non-ground-feeding birds, this feeder is ideal if your aim is to attract birds like cardinals, wrens, and finches.
Covered ground trays are an innovative way to save millet from spoiling on the ground or rooting in your grass. These types of feeders have raised legs and a roof that keeps birds and birdseed safe against the elements. Since it’s placed directly on the ground, you can be sure you’re giving ground-feeding birds prime accessibility.
Tube feeders can be helpful if you are attempting to combat squirrels from taking over as soon as you sprinkle millet on the ground. Tube feeders come in squirrel-proof designs and have clear plastic tubes with multiple feeding perches and trays dispersed throughout the tube. Gravity keeps trays at the base of perches full as the seed is consumed.
The downside to these feeders is that if you do not keep the feeder full, you lose the perk of having multiple feeding perches. If your aim is to attract buntings, this is a great option. A negative outcome of using a tube feeder is that birds seeking millet will not know to look in feeders since it is typically offered on the ground.
Ground scattering is the most common method for distributing millet. As you may be aware, other birds sometimes do this job for you if you’ve purchased a millet-heavy blend of bird food. The upside to this method is that it requires no additional money or maintenance like cleaning or refilling feeders.
Of course, there is always a downside. The cons of scattering millet by hand mean that birds may still waste some of the seed. If you have a beautiful lawn that is very carefully maintained, this option also means you’re essentially spreading weeds throughout your grass. If millet isn’t consumed, it is likely to seed into the earth and begin to grow. It looks like grass initially, but you’ll notice long, thin leaves emerging as it grows. In its early stages of growth, millet looks similar to corn plants.
Grow Your Own Millet!
If you’re a DIY kind of birder, you might enjoy incorporating millet into your garden. Millet is a low-cost bird food, but every bit of savings helps, am I right?
Millet requires soil that is well-drained that has little sand or coarseness. Select an area that receives ample direct sunlight and decent drainage. Preparation is simple and requires a few quick steps before sowing seeds.
Prepare the top layer of soil by loosening four to six inches of dirt. Using the birdseed blend you already have, sow seeds two inches apart from each other and cover them with one to three inches of soil. If you’re planting a large patch, rows should be 12 inches apart. Water daily in warm temperatures or enough to keep the soil moist. As I’ve mentioned, millet is very tolerant of drought, but you’ll have faster results and happier plants if water is provided.
After 6 to 10 weeks of diligent growing, the millet can be harvested. To harvest, cut the seed-producing portion of the plant, leaving the stalk intact. Seeds can be stripped from the stalk, scattered, or replanted. If you want to try something new, leave the seeds on the cutting and use twist ties or twine to attach the plant to a branch for birds to feed on as is. Birds will peck at the leftover stalks that remain in the plot.
If you are saving up the seeds, always store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place like a garage or workshop.
Where to Buy White Proso Millet
I certainly don’t blame you if you don’t want to grow your own millet. It is an easy ingredient to find whether you’re looking for it in small quantities or bulk.
Online: Buying items online has become extremely common and simple to navigate in our post-pandemic world. Virtually anything you need can be delivered straight to your door, and birdseed is no different.
Online retailers like Amazon and Walmart offer white proso millet bird seed for sale, but when purchasing seed online, I tend to stick with specialty pet and bird stores like Petco, Chewy, and Wild Birds Unlimited. While online buying may be extremely convenient, it may not be the most cost-effective option once you factor in shipping.
In-Store: Wild Birds Unlimited is the best option for ensuring you are supplying the best quality food. Additionally, if you join their savings membership, you’ll get a 15 percent discount on every purchase.
Hardware stores like Lowes, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot are wonderful options if you do not have a specialty bird store in your area.
On your next trip to the grocery store, you might even see white proso millet on the shelves for human consumption. It is entirely safe and common for humans to eat white proso millet. It’s fine for the birds to eat millet intended for humans, but humans should NOT eat millet intended for birds.
The Millet Round-Up
Now that you know more about the grain, you’re perfectly equipped to open the Millet Cafe right in your backyard! If you were just here to find out why so much of your precious birdseed has been wasted, you’ve got that answer too. If you want to know more about what seeds attract which species, check out Birding Insider’s in-depth guide on all things birdseed.
Answer: Millet is highly nutritious and has lower fat content than other seeds. This makes it a wonderful addition to any bird’s diet, but not all birds are fond of millet.
Answer: Millet is popular with ground-feeding birds such as quails, sparrows, towhees, juncos, and cardinals. It may also attract finches, grosbeaks, mourning doves, pheasants, wrens, and buntings.
Answer: Wild birds can have millet daily. It has essential nutrients needed for a balanced diet.
Answer: Millet can be given to birds by scattering it on the ground, filling bird feeders, or even growing millet plants for birds to feed on.
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out: