What kind of birds like to eat cracked corn?

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Greg Gillson

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.

Wrapping Up

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make cracked corn for birds?

Making cracked corn for birds is a simple and satisfying project that lets you provide your feathered friends with a nutritious and affordable treat. Here is a simple method you can use:


  • Whole dry corn kernels
  • Rolling pin
  • Mortar and pestle (optional)
  • Large bowl
  • Sieve or colander (optional)


  1. Spread the corn kernels: Pour the dry corn kernels in a single layer on a clean, hard surface like a countertop or cutting board.
  2. Crack the kernels: Roll the rolling pin back and forth over the kernels, applying medium pressure. You can also use a mortar and pestle to crush the kernels individually for finer pieces.
  3. Separate cracked corn: Sift the crushed corn through a sieve or colander to remove any larger pieces that haven’t broken down. You can adjust the coarseness of the cracked corn by using a sieve with the desired mesh size.
  4. Store the cracked corn: Keep the cracked corn in a clean, airtight container in a cool, dry place. It will last for several months.

Is cracked corn the same as feed corn?

While both cracked corn and feed corn are derived from whole corn kernels, they have some key differences:


  • Cracked corn: Primarily used as food for wildlife like birds, poultry, and sometimes small mammals. It’s often smaller in size, making it easier for smaller animals to consume.
  • Feed corn: Primarily used as animal feed for livestock like cattle, pigs, and sheep. It can be whole or cracked, but may also be processed further into corn silage or ground corn products.


  • Cracked corn: Typically undergoes a single cracking process to break down the whole kernels into smaller pieces. The size of the pieces can vary depending on the desired use.
  • Feed corn: Can undergo various processing steps beyond cracking, depending on its intended use. This might include drying, grinding, mixing with other ingredients, or fermenting.

Nutritional Content:

  • Cracked corn: Although a good source of carbohydrates and energy, cracked corn has lower protein and fat content compared to whole corn. Some nutrients may also be lost during processing.
  • Feed corn: The nutritional content of feed corn can vary depending on the processing it undergoes. For example, silage and ground corn may have higher protein content than whole corn.


  • Cracked corn: Generally more expensive than whole corn due to the additional processing step involved.
  • Feed corn: Typically cheaper than cracked corn, especially in bulk quantities.

Related Articles:

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

What bird seeds do birds really love?

Feeding birds orange halves

10 Fruits that birds love

The best type of sunflowers to feed birds

Feeding birds suet

Comments 11
  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!

  2. 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!

  3. Thank you for this information. I've been putting out seed that's mixed with cracked corn on the ground. It's becoming expensive because a flock of wild turkeys come twice a day and eat everything up. So I think I'll just put out the cracked corn on the ground now that I know most of the birds will eat it too. And save the seeds for the feeders.

  4. the last 20lb bag i bought seems to be at least 70% cracked corn. it was the first time i bought the brand and i guess thats why it was 6.50. anyway, i'm now faced with having a mess of left over corn all around the feed areas or deciding to not use it as primary feed.

  5. Cbvcmrt,

    Wow! 20 pounds for $6.50. Sounds like a great bargain. But as you found out, unless you are out in the country wanting to feed doves and turkeys and house sparrows.

  6. My relatively expensive parakeet mix has cracked corn in it. They never touch it. I've always assumed it was filler. I pick it out (what we do for pets!) & toss it outdoors for whomever wants it. Living in a city, we have pigeons & doves aplenty. I do remember from my youthful summers on my Aunt Betty's small farm that we fed it, straight off the cob, to the chickens and ducks.

  7. You are absolutely right! Corn is often a cheap filler. House Sparrows, quail, and doves eat it. And chickens!

  8. I have a huge flock of house sparrows so started using cracked corn in one feeder and seed in the other so the other birds have a chance. I have so many house sparrows they devour a full feeder every day before even the end of day!

  9. That seems reasonable. House Sparrows tend to be late risers. So early birds at the feeder might benefit.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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