Ask the Experts: Do Birds Eat Wheat?

Updated: Feb. 14, 2024

Should you feed wheat to birds? Experts answer reader questions about feeding wheat to birds and attracting birds with seed.

Do Birds Eat Wheat?

Question: “A bag of bird seed that I bought (and later threw away) had wheat in it. None of my birds ate it. Even a flock of starlings over 100 strong left it on the ground. Is there something about wheat that birds don’t like?” asks Marilyn Michalls of Basehor, Kansas.

Kenn and Kimberly: Some larger birds, such as quail and doves, readily eat wheat if nothing else is available. Blackbirds sometimes eat wheat as well. But generally it’s a last resort for most backyard birds. Wheat is often used as filler in some inexpensive seed mixes, but birds frequently just leave it on the ground where it goes to waste, as you’ve observed. We recommend reading the list of ingredients carefully before you purchase a mix. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s better to buy smaller quantities of high-quality seed and put out just a little at a time.

Offer Quality Bird Seed

Question: “New neighbors moved in nearby and put up four feeders, but birds no longer visit my feeders. Will they ever come back?” asks Jill Sosnowski of Roscoe, Illinois.

Kenn and Kimberly: Birds sometimes seem like fickle guests, jumping ship as soon as they get a better offer. About all you can do is provide high-quality bird food, keep your feeders clean and hope the birds rediscover your hospitality. Focus on seeds such as black oil sunflower and Nyjer (thistle), and try suet cakes hung on tree trunks. It helps if your feeders are fairly close to shrubs or trees so birds can quickly take cover if they feel threatened. And if you provide water in a bird bath that’s kept clean, all that might be enough to lure your birds back.

Each month, Birds & Blooms readers send in questions to birding experts, Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, who are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. Got a bird question for Kenn and Kimberly? Submit your questions here! They may appear here or in a future issue of the magazine.