Milo vs. Millet: Which Grain Should You Provide for Your Backyard Friends?

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Milo and millet are similar sounding words that might be easy to confuse. But understanding the difference between these two words and their meaning is crucial if you want to make the right choices for the birds in your garden.

In short, you need to know that milo, or sorghum, is a type of millet. But it is not the best choice for feeding birds. Other types of millet are far better if you want to attract and aid as many birds in your garden as possible.

What is Milo?

milo

 

Milo is a small, usually early, drought-resistant grain sorghum with compact, bearded heads of large reddish seeds. It comes from the grass species Sorghum bicolor, which is cultivated for its grain. This grain is commonly called sorghum but is also referred to as great millet, guinea corn, or milo.

What is Millet?

millet

Millet is the name given to a group of different small-seeded types of grass grown worldwide as cereal crops or grains. Milo, or sorghum millet, is just one of the grasses in this group.

So while all milo is millet, not all millets are milo.

Aside from sorghum, millet also refers to other grains and the plants from which they come.

The most common millet grown is pearl millet, Centrus americanus, also called Pennisetum glaucum. Around 50% of the total world millet production is pearl millet.

Several other plants also produce grains known as millet. Eleusine coracana, or finger millet, Panicum miliaceum, also known as proso millet, common millet, and other names, and Setaria italica, or foxtail millet, are also important millet crop species.

Are Sorghum and Millet the Same?

Sorghum, also referred to as milo, is one of the grasses described as millet. But remember, as mentioned above, there are several other millets. So when you purchase millet, you might be purchasing sorghum, but you might not.

It is crucial to understand whether you are purchasing milo or another type of millet because this will determine which birds will eat the bird food you provide and which will not.

Do Birds Eat Milo/ Sorghum?

Milo, or sorghum, is not necessarily the best choice for a backyard bird feeder because it is eaten only by larger birds, often ground feeders. It won’t be consumed by the smaller birds you might want to attract to a bird feeder.

Do Birds Eat Other Millets?

Other smaller millet bird seeds are much more popular with smaller backyard seed-eating birds that you might want to attract to your space. So these grains are a much better choice for feeding the birds in your garden if you want to attract as wide a range of smaller seed-eating birds as possible.

Which Birds Eat Sorghum and Other Millets?

Many birds do eat sorghum or milo. However, these are typically larger species such as wild turkeys, pheasants, large doves and pigeons, grackles, cowbirds, and large western jays such as western scrub jays and Steller’s Jays.

Smaller millet grains are eaten by many more species that you might wish to attract into your backyard, including American crows, Blue jays, Cardinals, Carolina wrens, doves, juncos, sparrows, starlings, thrashers, and towhees, for example. Finches and other smaller birds may also eat some types of millet when it is offered.

It is important to remember that different birds will prefer and be able to eat different types of millet. So consider which species you wish to feed when choosing which kind of millet to place on the ground in your garden or a bird feeder.

Is Millet Good for Birds?

All millets are an excellent supplemental food source for all the birds that eat them. It gives them a good source of protein and the energy they need.

They are highly nutritious and rich in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and essential B vitamins, high in good carbohydrates and low in fat, with plenty of plant fiber for easy digestibility.

What Kind of Millet is in Bird Seed?

The key to providing the best possible diet for birds lies in choosing the right millet types for the birds you wish to feed.

Bird seed mixes often contain milo, which is cheap and affordable. These larger seeds are often used as filler in cheaper mixes. But, as mentioned above, this is not the best choice if you want to attract as wide a range of birds as possible since many birds will not eat these larger sorghum seeds.

Commercial seed mixes also often contain other types of millet. Most commonly, these are proso millet (which comes in red or white varieties), foxtail millet, and/or pearl millet.

Which Millet is Best for Birds?

Remember, milo is not the best choice for most garden birds, so mixes with milo are best avoided if you wish to provide for as many different birds as possible.

Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) comes in two different types: commonly referred to as red millet and white millet. Of these two types, most birds seem to prefer the white variety, which contains 12.5 grams of protein, 70.4 grams of carbohydrates, 5.2 grams of fiber, and 206 milligrams of Phosphorous per 100 grams of grain.

Another good choice for wild birds is Foxtail millet. It contains 12.3 grams of protein, 60.2 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of minerals, 6.7 grams of fiber, 290 milligrams of Phosphorous, and 31 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of grain.

Pearl millet also appeals to a range of birds. It contains 11.8 grams of protein, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 2.3 grams of fiber, 240 milligrams of Phosphorous, and 42 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams of grain.

Mixes that contain one or more of these three options, along with other seeds and grains, but without milo or red millet, are the best choices when feeding the birds in your garden.

Remember, however, that millets should only be given in moderation, alongside other protein-rich seeds like sunflower seeds, nyger seeds, etc.

Supplemental feeding should only be considered once you have ensured you are providing birds with a healthy habitat and diet through planting in your garden.

Natural food sources should make up the bulk of a bird’s diet, so planting the right native species for the birds in your area is always the most important step in doing the right thing for the birds in your garden.

How to Feed Millet To Birds

Since many of the birds that like millet are ground feeders, it is often best to spread a little millet on the ground in your garden in moderation so that it does not rot or attract other pests.

You might also add millet to a hanging bird feeder but should note that many of the species feeding at it may not opt to eat these particular grains.

Millet grains (except milo) can also be a beneficial grain to add to suet discs made with melted fat and dry ingredients like nuts and seeds, which can be an excellent food for birds in the winter. Whether this is a good idea will depend on the particular bird species in your garden.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.