The end of hunting season is always a sad time for those who enjoy their time in the woods. But tending a bird feeder in your yard or on your patio can bring a little slice of nature to you. Bird feeding is such a popular activity that there are literally hundreds of different bird seed blends available. But they’re not all created equal. To make a good selection, you should ask yourself three critical questions.

Top Pick

This blend has 11 different ingredients and contains 40 percent sunflower seeds—the favorite food of many species. Amazon

Different bird species prefer different kinds of seed, and if you give them what they don’t want, they won’t visit your feeder. Sunflower seeds are the most popular seed because they attract a wide variety of bird species that people find desirable—specifically cardinals, nuthatches, jays, finches and even woodpeckers. Other birds like sparrows, towhees, quail, doves and blackbirds prefer cracked corn. Milo, another favorite seed, attracts some of the same birds that love sunflower seeds and cracked corn. Thistle seed, also called nyjer, is a favorite of finches and will bring them in by the dozens. Seed blends that combine these ingredients, or at least a few of them, draw a wider variety of birds to your feeder, making viewing all the different species more fun.

Great Value

This thin-shelled option is the favorite of many types of fowl, such as cardinals and woodpeckers. Wagner’s

Different feeds require different kinds of feeders, so you’ll need to take inventory of what feeders you have or need. Tray feeders are simply that—a platform with a lip around it for feeding birds. These can be used for basically any type of bird seed. Hopper feeders do a better job of protecting seed from the elements and also can work with sunflower seeds, cracked corn, milo or blends. Tube feeders are more specialized, and the seeds you can feed from them depend on the size of the feeding ports. Some are made to feed sunflower seeds, while others can be used with tiny thistle seeds. Nyjer feeders, or thistle socks, are fine mesh bags that hold thistle seeds and allow birds to extract the seed through the side of the bag.

No Fillers

This blend is cut small for smaller beaks and flows easily through most feeders. Lyric

As with many products, the price of bird seed per pound usually decreases as the size of the bag increases. Consequently, a 50-pound bag might look like the best buy. In reality, that might not be the case. If you only have a few feeders, buying a large bag could lead to seed going stale or spoiling before you get the chance to use it. Some of this concern can be alleviated by the packaging different companies use for their bird seed. The best bird feed will generally be packaged in sturdy plastic or coated paper bags with easy-open tabs.