Which Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds: Your Ultimate Guide

If you enjoy feeding birds in your yard, it’s important to know which birds eat sunflower seeds. These types of seeds are popular in bird feed blends, but not all birds like them or can eat them. In fact, some birds can’t even crack the shells open.

Some of the more popular birds that eat sunflower seeds include:

  • chickadees
  • cardinals
  • doves
  • goldfinches
  • house finches
  • jays
  • sparrows

This is not an inclusive list. Many bird species include sunflower seeds in their diet as they are a popular tasty treat for our feathered friends.

Beginner birdwatchers will quickly learn that introducing the right feed to your local birds will bring many of them much closer to you. This allows you to watch the birds eat and interact with one another. Thankfully, asking which birds eat sunflower seeds has a better answer than you might expect.

TIP: If you want to check out the best pair of binoculars for bird watching, we recommend a pair of waterproof and fog-proof 8 x 42 binoculars like the Celestron – Outland X 8×42 Binoculars (Amazon link).

Which Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds

bird eating sunflower seeds

Perhaps a better question to ask is, “What birds don’t eat sunflower seeds?”

There are so many birds that eat sunflower seeds that you would likely get bored reading the list. However, some popular birds include chickadees, cardinals, doves, goldfinches, house finches, jays, and sparrows. There are many more, which you can easily find with a quick search online.

Instead of asking which birds eat sunflower seeds, it’s better to ask what kind of sunflower seeds to look for to feed birds. There are different kinds of sunflower seeds, and some birds fare better with a particular type. However, this leads to another question: Why do birds eat sunflower seeds?

Why Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds

Birds have a fast metabolism and a high body temperature compared to humans. Depending on the species, their body temperatures will range between 101 and 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, birds need the right food to fuel their bodies.

If you look at different kinds of bird food, all the high-quality brands contain a variety of seeds. Sunflower seeds are particularly popular for birdseed blends. This is because sunflower seeds have a high fat and protein content, which is the perfect fuel for many birds.

Because sunflower seeds provide the right nutrition for most birds, the best wild bird seed mix will have a large percentage of these seeds. Birds do not need nearly as much crude fiber, so make sure the proportions are right. Actually, there are several considerations for purchasing sunflower birdseed.

Considerations For Purchasing Sunflower Birdseed

Knowing which birds eat sunflower seeds will only get you so far. You should also know how to find the best sunflower seeds for birds in bulk.

There are several aspects to consider. This includes which type of sunflower seed your local birds will like, as well as the type of bird feeder you have. You should also take the price and freshness into consideration.

This will ensure that you have the best bird seed for your backyard, which will bring all sorts of native species to your door. While the birds find a new place to find food, you can enjoy watching them.

TIP: Are you looking for high-quality food for wild birds on your backyard? I recommend using Wagner’s products with the highest quality grains used in blending and made in the USA (Amazon links):
Deluxe Treat Blend Wild Bird Food
Eastern Regional Wild Bird Food
Western Regional Wild Bird Food
Midwest Regional Wild Bird Food
Southern Regional Wild Bird Food

Types Of Sunflower Seeds

Asking what birds eat sunflower seeds is quite vague, so you should consider the types of sunflower seeds.

The most popular are black oil sunflower seeds, which some refer to as oilers. These seeds have a thin shell that birds can easily penetrate with their beaks. They have a particularly high-fat content, so they are ideal for winter birds.

You can also buy blends with striped sunflower seeds in them, which is the type of seed most people are familiar with. While they have great nutritional value, their shells are much thicker and harder than black oil seeds. This means that only larger birds with stronger beaks can open and eat them.

If you don’t want to worry about the mess of sunflower seed shells all over your yard or patio, you should consider hulled sunflower seeds for birds. This makes it so that all of the native birds in your area can eat without any difficulty. However, they are more expensive and spoil faster than black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

There are advantages and disadvantages of each type, but they all offer great nutritional value to birds. Your choice will come down to the other considerations, as well as your own personal preference.

Birds In Your Area

Choosing the type of sunflower birdseed you want to buy will also depend on the native birds in your area. If you want to supply food to all the small and large birds nearby, black oil sunflower seeds are your best bet.

However, you may live in a place where a particular small species is running rampant. You can then offer striped sunflower seeds so that the larger birds have a chance at finding food, too. Not only can this boost the activity of larger birds, but it can also mean you can watch those larger species more often, too.

For example, striped sunflower seeds are harder for blackbirds, house sparrows, and other songbirds to open. If it is too much effort, they will leave the seeds alone. On the other hand, cardinals, titmice, and nuthatches can open stronger shells.

Essentially, if you want to deter certain bird species from coming to your feeder, choose striped sunflower seeds. If you want to cater to all the native birds, black oil or hulled sunflower seeds will be your best bet.

TOP TIP: Now that you have prepared your backyard for a variety of birds, you need the tools to observe them without scaring them away. A good pair of binoculars is a must – read this review to find out what you should look for. This article has a few good ideas on what to gift new bird watchers.

Types Of Bird Feeders

birds feasting on a house birdfeeder

After learning what birds eat sunflower seeds, you should then consider the kind of bird feeder you have. Thankfully, sunflower mixes work well with a variety of feeders. If you don’t have one yet, you should think about what kind of bird feeder you should get.

Tray feeders may look simple and basic, but they give plenty of space for several birds to gather at once. It also offers enough space for larger birds, like cardinals. They offer little protection against the elements, though, so you will want to change out the feed frequently to prevent mold and fungus growth.

Hopper feeders have a similar look to a birdhouse, and they offer a good amount of space for perching birds as well. They protect the food from the elements better than a tray, so you will not have to change it out as often. However, if moisture gets inside, it provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Tube feeders are especially great for protecting your bird food against squirrels. Some even close up if there is too much weight, like that of a squirrel perching on it. Unfortunately, they tend to be too small for larger birds.

If you are torn on the different types, you can always place multiple feeders in your yard. You can even hang a tray under a tube feeder if you want to combine the benefits of a tube and tray feeder into one. Ultimately, you get to choose which is best for you.

TIP: Choosing the right bird feeder is crucial when you want to attract birds on your backyard. There are a lot of options on how and where to place a bird feeder. Check out my picks on different bird feeders below (Amazon links):
Free-standing Bird Feeder
Hanging Bird Feeder
Bird Feeder with Camera

Price of Sunflower Seeds

Price is another factor when considering which sunflower seed bird feed to buy. Hulled sunflower seeds are much more expensive, but they are worth it if you want to avoid cleaning up the shells. Black oil seeds are the cheapest of all the types of sunflower seeds.

It’s also important to note that a higher price doesn’t always mean the food is high quality. There are some brands of sunflower seeds for birds that are also great products. Instead of only looking at the price, be sure to look at the proportions of protein to fiber and how fresh the seeds are.

Freshness Of Ingredients


When you know what birds eat sunflower seeds, it’s crucial to provide the freshest seeds possible. This ensures that the birds receive proper nutrition. Besides, if the food is bad, the birds won’t even touch it, and you will have wasted your money.

You can tell that the seeds are fresh by examining the contents of the bag. There should not be any mold, an excess of empty shells, or worms inside.

Also, in order to provide the best nutrition possible, choose a seed blend that has a percentage of 50 percent or more of sunflower seeds.

Other Types Of Birdseed

Though most birds will eat sunflower seeds, you can heighten your birdwatching experience by offering other variety packs as well. Some seeds will attract other birds, allowing you to observe a variety of species at your own home.

Nyger or Niger seed is popular with finches, but it is very small and requires a mesh feeder to keep it from spilling. Millet is great in tube and hopper feeders, but you can even place it on the ground for quail and wild turkeys. Safflower seed is a feasible substitute for sunflower seed because squirrels don’t like how it tastes, and it works in just about any feeder type.

There are even birdseed variety packs that have a combination of different seeds in them. This can help you attract a variety of bird species with a single product. Be sure to study your native species so you know which seeds will work best.

Learn Which Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds To Prepare Your Backyard Feeder

Now that you know what birds eat sunflower seeds, you can prepare your backyard for them. There are so many species that love them, and you can observe them in your yard just by supplying the best sunflower bird food.

You will have to consider the different types of sunflower seeds and bird feeders, as well as the birds in your area, price, and seed freshness. Once you examine each of these aspects, you will know which seed will make your birdwatching hobby more enjoyable.

TIP: Bird feeders and baths are great for attracting birds to your backyard. But what about bird houses? They will help you not only track but also keep them in your yard! Check out my picks on different bird houses below (Amazon links):
Cedar Viewing House
Wood Bird House with Pole
Hanging Bird House

Now, when someone asks you what birds eat sunflower seeds, you will have a well-researched response for them.

Do you use sunflower birdseed in your feeder? Tell us the different kinds of birds you see in the comments section.

Amy Connelly

As a little girl, I was fascinated by birds and liked to watch them in nature. This interest of mine has lasted until today, so I decided to create this website. This should be a place where all birdwatchers find anything and everything that they need for birdwatching.

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