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Sunflower Seed Feeding Guide

March 19, 2022
a sparrowhawk in water
an american goldfinch at a bird feeder, an example of which birds will eat sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds have a lot of benefits to offer for birds, so let’s take a closer look at the different types of sunflower seeds that are available, and why they are excellent food sources for your garden birds.

View our range of sunflower hearts and seeds


Which Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Sunflower seeds are a popular food source for all garden birds, and their variety of sizes and types makes them great for small and large birds alike.

These birds are especially fans:

  • Tits
  • Cardinal
  • Finches
  • Sparrows

Types of Sunflower Seeds for Birds

Sunflower seeds come in many different types, of which the most common are:

  • Whole sunflower seeds
  • Sunflower hearts
  • Sunflower chips

Let’s look at different kinds of sunflower seeds and their benefits to garden birds.


Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

black oil sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds come in different forms – these include black oil seeds and striped seeds. Black oil seeds have thin shells and are easy for almost all birds to open up.

Benefits: Whole sunflower seeds are high in fat, so they are ideal for most birds to feed on during cold winter months.

Which Birds Eat Whole Sunflower Seeds? Sunflower seeds make for a great food source for various birds, including finches, nuthatches, cardinals, and woodpeckers. They are easy to offer throughout your garden – you can also provide different types of seeds for specific bird species.


Sunflower Hearts

sunflower heartsSunflower hearts are de-husked or shelled sunflower seeds. They are popular with bird lovers, as they offer the complete nutritional value of the whole sunflower seed without the mess of husks.

Benefits: There is no husk to crack, so birds can feed quicker and use less energy to consume the seeds. Because there are no husks, the seeds are a practical ‘no-mess’ solution.

Which Birds Eat Sunflower Hearts? With sunflower hearts, you can attract a lot of different bird species to your garden, but goldfinches and tits particularly favour them. They are safe to feed on during nesting season and small enough not to pose a choking risk for chicks.



Sunflower Chips

sunflower chipsSunflower chips are chipped sunflower seeds, and all seed-eating birds love them.

Benefits: They have no shells, so they leave no mess behind. Sunflower chips are high in energy and an excellent addition to have in your garden all year round – particularly during hatching season.

Which Birds Eat Sunflower Chips? Sunflower chips are ideal for fledglings and smaller birds because of their size.  They are much more easily digested than regular seeds. Because of this, birds of all sizes can feed on them easily. However, they are particularly favoured by blackbirds, blue tits, goldfinches, greenfinches, and woodpeckers.




Striped Sunflower Seeds

striped sunflower seeds

Striped sunflower seeds have a thicker shell that can be hard for birds to crack, they are the same seeds that you would typically grow in your garden.

Benefits: Striped sunflower seeds are highly nutritious, being high in both oils and protein.

Which Birds Eat Striped Sunflower Seeds? These seeds are loved by many bird species, including cardinals and grosbeaks[iv]. However, their husks can be quite hard, and the seed itself can be large for smaller birds like soft bills. The other issue is that it may leave a mess in your garden as birds discard the husks.




How to Feed Sunflower Seeds

Because sunflower hearts and seeds are so versatile, you have plenty of options to offer them in your garden so that you can attract birds of all sizes.

  • Hanging Feeders – One way of effectively offering sunflower seeds to garden birds is to use a hanging feeder. This will also help prevent large birds and squirrels from eating up all the food. Smaller birds will have a better chance of feeding on these nutritious seeds. This is particularly helpful if you’re offering sunflower hearts as it offers some protection against the weather and keeps the seeds dry.
  • Bird Tables – Another option is using a bird table to place the seeds for different bird species to enjoy. Remember to place sunflower hearts in a covered section to keep them dry.
  • Ground Feeders – Another good option is a ground feeder, which is especially popular with ground-feeding birds like House Sparrows, Robins and Blackbirds Chaffinches. Ground feeders will help to keep the seeds dry.

Sunflower hearts and seeds are great to offer as food sources all year round. The vitamins and minerals these seeds offer is valuable in all seasons, and the high-fat content is great for the winter months. You can offer more sunflower hearts during nesting season to be on the safe side.


Nutrition Benefits of Sunflower Seeds for Birds

Sunflower seeds are very healthy for a variety of birds and extremely nutrient-dense. Sunflower seeds offer birds a variety of nutrients, including:

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamins A, B, C, and D

Sunflower seeds are also high in fat and protein, making them healthy for birds’ diets. With so many different types of seeds available, it’s easy to add them to your existing garden bird feeders.

Read More: Different Types of Bird Feed

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1 comment

  1. I’ve just bought a large bucket of sunflower seeds for the birds, but unfortunately they are a s hard as stone. I’ll have to crack them with a rolling pin, which is not what I was anticipating!! Grrr!