By attracting birds to your yard, you are essentially inviting guests over for dinner. You want to provide them with food using feeders that are easy to clean and that keep seeds dry. Offer quality seed and discard any food items that are moldy or soiled.
The all-around best choice for attracting a variety of birds in most areas is black-oil sunflower seed. This can be purchased on its own or in a blend of various seeds. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and a variety of other birds love sunflower seed.
Small, round seeds like millet and milo are also found in mixed seed blends. These seeds are generally preferred by ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, juncos, and doves. In some areas, few birds like red milo, so you may want to avoid blends with a lot of small, round, red-brown seeds. Safflower is a white seed that looks somewhat like a sunflower seed. Some people find that chickadees and cardinals really go for safflower; however, some don't, so you may need to adjust your seed mix to fit the palate of the birds in your area.
Nyjer seed (formerly known as thistle) is a small, thin, black seed that is a magnet for finches such as goldfinches and house finches. This seed is imported from Southeast Asia and can be a little pricey, but it will surely attract finches to your yard if they are in the area. You need a special feeder with small feeding ports to feed nyjer.
Suet will bring woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees to your yard. Suet is essentially animal fat. You can either buy beef or pork fat from a butcher or buy prepackaged suet cakes. Some suet cakes come with seeds, peanut butter, berries, or even bugs mixed in. Plain suet works as well as anything, and the woodpeckers will become regular visitors if you offer it. Just be careful in warm weather, because suet can become rancid and may harm the birds. Many people stop feeding suet during warm weather.
Visit feederwatch.org for more information on Project FeederWatch or call the United States headquarters at 877-741-3077 and the Canadian headquarters at 888-448-2473.
Special thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for providing a free membership to Project FeederWatch and to Wild Birds Unlimited for providing a set of binoculars, bird feeders, and a field guide for the studio audience.