Feeding Birds Sunflower Seed



Feeding Birds Sunflower Seed?

Why not?

They are native to America. In fact, the American Indian domesticated and grew these plants as a food crop for more than 5,000 years.

They were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquerors.

As a native plant, they were also an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

As you can see, offering birds high energy seed is a natural.

It's seed is a great source of protein and oil for birds as well as for people.

Striped sunflower seed is used as a bird food, but mostly is a people snack.

By far the most popular is the "Black Oil sunflower Seed".

Black oil sunflower seed can contain up to 24% protein and up to 50% oil.

Now that is some massive energy that birds require.

For people, that oil goes into cooking and baking. This continues to grow in popularity and is driving up the cost for us that feed birds.

For birds the sunflower's oil keeps the sheen in the birds feathers and keeps the home fires burning.

A very important factor when caring birds in the cold of winter.

Black oil  seed

Sunflower seed is good for year round health.

Besides being rich in oil and protein, these seeds contain a dozen vital minerals.

Calcium is one important item on that list, vital for strong bones and eggs shells.

On cold winter days offering birds sunflower seed can mean the difference between life and death for your birds.

Chickadees can increase their body weight
by 12% daily by eating sunflowers.

This is needed to survive the cold winters.

Can you imagine gaining 12% of your body weight in one day and using it up over night?

Birds are small and have a higher rate of metabolism. The smaller the bird, the faster the motor runs.

In the 1700's the Russian people really started to develop a sunflower with bigger seeds and a higher oil content.

The sunflower is the national flower of Russia and no country grows more sunflowers as a food crop then Russia.

By the early 1900's the Russian sunflower found it's way back to America as a cash crop.

Yep, sunflowers and their by-products are now on the menu.

Any where there is a 90 to 100 day growing season, sunflowers can indeed be planted and harvested.

More than likely you can grow then in your gardens.

You may plant them for your own use or just for looks and bird food.

sunflower field

Feeding Birds Sunflower Seed, Where Does Come From?

Back in 1970 as a 16 year old we were coming home after a visit to Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

There they were, fields of sunflowers in bloom. As far as the eye could see!

Talk about birds and sunflowers! Can you imagine the potential crop loss or damage?

Today, 85% of the commercially grown sunflowers in the United States are grown in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

A majority of the Canadian crop comes from Manitoba and a small part of Saskatchewan.

No matter what, birds and sunflowers have a long history together and it passes down from generation to generation.

Plant a few and watch the goldfinches as they converge on your yard in late summer, as they gorge on the seed heads.

For a few weeks your gardens will be filled with the sight and sound of these little birds.

When it comes to you birds and sunflower seed you have a few options.

Striped seeds are much larger and have a thicker shell.

A few birds can eat these like Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Jays, few other birds have the bill shape or strength to crack these seeds open.

Black oilers are by far more popular and cost almost half the price of their striped cousins.

Now you can attract and feed chickadees, all the different species of finches, Tufted tit mouse, nuthatches, doves, cardinals, woodpeckers and many, many more desirable birds.

Offering birds sunflower seed can be in the hull or out of its hull.

You can buy whole seeds.

It comes in chips, medium and fine.

For a premium price, you can find sunflower hearts, though they aren't as nutritious.

Hull-less sunflower can be called a no mess feed and it can be a convenient way to feed birds.

For me, chips and hull-less seeds are used sparingly.

Why you ask?

Well, I like to watch the birds work a little bit for their supper.

Plus, when seeds are out of their jackets, they can turn sour and moldy over night.

Especially in wet or humid conditions.

If you really want to enjoy your birds, keep the seed in the hull.

They birds work a bit for your free hand outs and you are rewarded with hours of entertainment and enjoyment.

sunflower chips

I use chips and no hull sunflower in the winter when it is cold and usually dry.

I put them in feeders where I know they will be consumed rapidly.

Never put hull less seeds and chips in the line of fire of sprinklers and rain storms. Chips especially will turn to mush.

On a warm day wet seed will turn rancid in no time at all.

Offering birds sunflower seed is easy and you can offer the seeds in any type of feeder for
various types of birds.

Tubes for smaller birds, hoppers and platforms for all birds.

Now here is are couple of tips for you.

By offering sunflower seed in the hull, starlings will not be a problem?

European starlings cannot crack open sunflower seeds.

A starling's bill works in reverse order from other birds. Meaning its strength is in opening its mouth, not closing it.

This bill design is for spreading grasses out to hunt for small seeds and insects.

Great for keeping lawns clean and better for staying away from sunflower feeders.

Offer sunflowers and the starlings go else where.

So you wont have sunflowers growing everywhere, nuke the seed about one minute per pound.

This steam cooks the seed in the shell so it retains its value and kills off the germination process.

If hulls are a problem, lay down some window screening or an old screen under your feeders. Shake it off when ever you see a mess.

Once chips and hull less seeds get wet, you will want to toss them on the ground for the birds.

This way you minimize loss of feed and possible sickness.

Return to Feeding Birds Main Page

Hoppers are Ideal for Sunflower Seeds

Water will Help You Attract More Birds.

Shrubs for Your Gardens and Birds

Trees for Your Birds

Flowers Attract Birds and Other Wildlife

Native Grasses for Food and Protection

Work Your Passions


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