Sunflower Seeds for Birds

You might be searching for a bird feed that is brimming with a variety of nutrients and something that can attract many types of birds. At the same time, you might be also concerned with the seed helping in strengthening their beaks, feathers, and skin. If this is the case, then sunflower seeds for birds are the ones for you.

The edible remnants of these nutritious sunflower seeds are known as the sunflower kernel or heart, which essentially is nothing short of a wholesome meal for birds.

Types of Sunflower Seeds

For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are ordinarily sorted by the pattern on their husks – striped and black oil.

Striped seeds are large and have a relatively thick shell, which makes them much harder for certain birds like House Sparrows and Blackbirds to crack and consume. These striped seeds are obtained from the sunflowers that can usually be grown in our backyards.

The black oil seeds have fragile shells, making it easy for all seed-eating birds to crack these seeds open. As the name suggests, these seeds have higher oil and fat levels, signifying that they contain more calories per gram, making them extremely valuable for many winter birds. Hulled seeds, also known as sunflower chips or kernels, are the best bird seeds. Since their shells have already been removed, it becomes a lot easier for birds to consume them. No wonder these are very popular among birds and frequently purchased by bird-loving people!

Why Should You Feed Them Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are like the healthy equivalent of fast food. Quick, delicious, and easy to eat, birds devour these seeds in no time at all. Being able to enjoy sunflower seeds this way means that they will require very little energy to eat, all the while holding back a high percentage of the energy, which they will obtain from these seeds.

The energy benefits are really great; so great that birds known for having insects as their regular diet have replaced them with sunflower seeds. They have the highest calorie-to-weight ratio compared to any other bird feed, as well as a superior level of protein.

While the seeds’ protein content is reasonably high, one must be aware that plant proteins are not ‘complete’ proteins. This means that they do not consist of the full complement of amino acids required to make up complete proteins. So, while feeding sunflower seeds, one must keep in mind that these seeds might not provide birds with the full benefits of proteins.

Sunflower seeds, black oil seeds, in particular, are a favorite of many backyard birds. Even birds that prefer other seeds and insects tend to at least try them often.

Birds that Love Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Northern Cardinals

Northern Cardinals are also called Redbirds, Red Cardinals, or just Cardinals. They are songbirds found in southeast Canada, eastern United States, Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. The Northern Cardinal is a granivore but consumes insects and fruits too.

It is a ground feeder, which means that it picks out its food from the ground, trees, and shrubs. Cardinals prefer oats, sunflower seeds, and corn. Black oil sunflower seeds for birds can easily lure birds like the heavenly Cardinals.

Tufted Titmice

This songbird is from North America. Tufted Titmice inhabits deciduous and regions with a lot of trees, for example, gardens, parks, and shrublands. Being ground feeders, they tend to feed on seeds, berries, nuts, snails, insects, and small fruits.

It has been observed that Tufted Titmice prefer large seeds such as sunflower seeds for birds. They also prefer suet and peanuts!

Mourning and Eurasian Doves

Mourning Doves are found in the continental United States, Southern Canada, and Mexico. Mourning Dove’s habitats are almost anywhere such as fields, bare grounds, or perch on overhead telephone wires.

Mourning Doves love to sunbathe and take water baths. Many people build bird baths to attract them to their backyards. Seeds make up 99% of their diet. They feed on rapeseed, millet, corn, sunflower seed, and safflower seed.

Mourning Dove Picture

Gray Catbirds

Gray Catbirds are perching birds from North and Central America. Gray Catbirds are located in the small thickets. Many birdscaping backyards plant small shrubs and fruit-bearing trees to entice them.

These songbirds savor caterpillars, insects, spiders, ants, fruits, berries, and seeds. However, their preferred seed is black oil sunflower seed because sunflower seeds for birds are the king of seeds.

Evening Grosbeaks

Evening Grosbeaks are always found in flocks. Inhabiting the western and the northeast United States, they primarily feed on insect larvae in summers, buds during spring, and in winters, they consume small fruits, berries, and seeds.

These social birds primarily consume sunflower seeds when they switch their diet from insect larvae in summer to seeds in winter.

Boat-tailed Grackles

Marshes are the main hubs of Boat-tailed Grackles. They are located in coastal salt waters in Florida. They are primarily seen in the southeastern United States.

As they are always near the ocean, much of their diet is from the waters. Aquatic insects, crayfish, shrimp, tadpoles, and some seeds, such as sunflower seeds, millet seeds, sorghum, and corn.


Bushtits, also known as Long-tailed tits, these birds are found on the forest edges and undergrowth; they mostly inhabit mountainous areas. Often found in the Himalayas, Eurasia, and Western North America.

Bushtits are social birds who are always together in flocks. Their primary food is insects and other invertebrates. The seeds they prefer are sunflower seed, sunflower chips, peanuts, and they eat suet too!

Black-billed Magpies

Black-billed Magpies are often spotted in open woodlands. They are entertaining birds who live in western North America. A backyard tip to lure them is that they eat from platform bird feeders and suet feeders.

Black-billed Magpies are omnivorous and savor insects, rodents, berries, eggs, and seeds, such as sunflower seeds.


Finches are native to Australia. Finches are very adaptive to various food sources; they have a varied diversity. As they are very adaptive to food, they feed on a bunch of fruits, vegetables, and seeds. They eat millet bird seeds, canary grass seeds, thistle bird seeds, and sunflower seeds.


Blackbirds are found in Europe, North Africa, Asiatic Russia, and North Africa. They are garden birds who prefer to live in the countryside, coasts, and hills. They eat insects, earthworms, berries, fruits, and seeds that are flaked maize, millet seed, and sunflower seeds.

One must not put safflower and thistles in their bird feeders if they want to lure Blackbirds; they simply do not prefer them.


Goldfinches are native to Australia, New Zealand, and Uruguay. They inhabit wooded lowlands; these birds savor thistles and beige sunflower heart seeds but also feed on nyjer seeds and insects.

Other than these, Jays, Sparrows, and many other birds’ varieties will feed on these seeds. When scattered on the ground, even some birds like Pheasants and Turkeys will clear them away. All forms of sunflower seeds are savored by Finches, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, and even some Woodpecker species.

Some birds like Parrots and Cockatoos do not follow this kind of diet. For these birds, sunflower seeds tend to cause many issues, so it is better if they are avoided.

Methods of Feeding

If you are considering feeding sunflower seeds and kernels to a variety of bird species, these sunflower seeds for birds can be arranged in a hopper or tray feeders. Hoppers or trays are easy substitutes for mesh feeders and are used when mesh feeders are too small to accommodate these seeds.

They can also be scattered on the ground for ground-feeding birds. But there is a minor problem. As sunflower seeds attract a wide range of birds, it is easy for bully birds like Grackles and Blackbirds to easily dominate over smaller birds and consume a larger portion of the spread in tray feeders.

This can be rectified with a simple step: by serving sunflower seeds from a bird seed feeder that permits only smaller and lighter birds to enter the feeding chamber. These feeders, also known as “exclusion feeders,” have smaller perching stands, weight mechanisms, or fences to keep the larger bully birds out of reach.

Avoid tube feeders while using sunflower hearts and chips. These collect moisture easily and lead to the soaking of these seeds, thus spoiling them. These seeds can be offered in a variety of feeders like acrylic window feeders, hoppers, tray feeders, etc.

Sunflower Seeds vs. Sunflower Kernels

While it is very efficient and easy to provide birds with sunflower hearts (cracked sunflower seeds), it makes them an easy target for squirrels, who also happen to love these nutritious seeds. Now, we do not want our feathered friends to be scared of squirrels.

Cracked seeds are also comparatively expensive. These hearts will be spoiled quickly as there is no protection from moisture. This will lead to bacteria infesting the kernels and making them inedible.

These shortcomings can be avoided by using specialized feeders and straight sunflower seeds for birds instead of kernels. These specialized feeders are fairly good at excluding squirrels. However, uncracked seeds are fairly cheap and economical!

But sunflower seeds have their own failings. Birds find them tough to eat, and they drop the husks around the feeders. This affair gets messy. Dropped shells may lead to damaging the grass or attracting vermin. Sometimes these seeds may also end up germinating in lawns and flower beds.

Higher Fats: Boon or Bane?

Sunflower seeds for birds are a boon in many ways. They are sources of high-quality proteins and also boost fatty oils in birds. The latter point is important as it helps birds to keep themselves toasty during cold weather. Birds employ their oil glands to spread oil over their feathers to keep them dry and warm.

While sunflower seeds are very nutritious and tasty, they do have some drawbacks. As we know, too much of anything might lead to no good thing. While consumed at higher levels, these seeds and kernels might cause obesity, leading to heart problems in several bird species.

Meanwhile, some birds might tend to overeat left when without supervision, which will cause their weight to rise. This will lead to sluggishness in birds and hinder their flight. This might also lead to calcium deficiency in birds, contributing to brittle bones, weak nails, and egg binding. All these health issues can be rectified by making a balanced bird feed. A mixture of several types of seeds is the perfect solution to this. This will enhance the birds’ diet as well as provide them with various food flavors!

Where to Buy Sunflower Seeds for Birds?

Several websites and online stores provide you with an assortment of sunflower seeds, kernels, and even a mixture of different other seeds. These are perfectly packed and are available in various quantities and qualities.

As already mentioned, black oil sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts tend to be pricey, whereas striped seeds are relatively cheap. Each kind has its own advantages and disadvantages. Make sure to read the reviews and to look for expiry.

Sunflower seeds can also be brought from nearby farmer markets. There is a high chance that these seeds are fresh and long-lasting, as they are organic. Whichever is your mode of purchase, verify the quality of the seeds.

Final Words

Sunflower seeds are one of the best feed for birds due to many of their advantages, including their nutritional values and their popularity among the many bird species. Fill your bird feeder with these crispy and savory seeds, and you are assured of having a flock of colorful bird friends visiting your yard.

It is also very crucial to keep in mind the cleanliness of your bird feeder. When unwashed, these may lead to the rotting and spoilage of seeds which makes them toxic. This will cause various illnesses for birds. So ensure that you periodically cleanse your bird feeder or change it, alternating between a few bird feeders. These will help in keeping your featured friends healthy and happy.

You can set goals to bird-watch after you have placed your sunflower bird seeds in your backyard and record your results.


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