Do Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds Whole?

Sunflower seeds are delicious and most birds love them. However, the question is do birds eat sunflower seeds whole?

No, birds don’t eat sunflower seeds whole because they can’t digest sunflower seeds shells. However, they crack them open using their beaks and eat the seed while discarding the shell.

Now you might be wondering why don’t they eat the whole sunflower seeds? What about the big birds? Do they also open the seed before eating? Well, to find out keep on reading.

What are the Different Types of Sunflower Seeds for Birds?

Do Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds Whole

Sunflower seeds come in various types depending on size, shape, and color. Sunflower seed originates from North America where it got its name because it grows under the sun.

It has a thin shell covering the kernel which is used as feed for humans, chickens, turkeys, ducks, wild birds, etc.

It has three main categories: Striped sunflower seeds, black oil, and high-oil sunflower seeds.

Striped Sunflower Seeds:

These types of sunflower seeds have a striped shell that has a dark color and its origin is from Kansas, Texas, and Mexico. They are the smallest of all the types with an average length of 1 cm.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds:

These sunflower seeds have a black shell with dark gray stripes. Their length varies from 1cm to 2cm and they are well known for their nutritious value having 40% oil.

They are mostly used in bird feeders, but can also be fed directly to larger birds like Canaries, Finches, etc.

High-Oil Sunflower Seeds:

These seeds have a dark gray shell with black stripes. Their length varies from 1cm to 3cm and they are known for having 50% oil content in them. They are used in bird feeders, but can also be given directly to chickens, turkeys or larger birds like Canaries or Finches.

Now that you know the different types of Sunflower Seeds for Birds, let’s talk about how they are eaten and where to get them.

Which Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds?

A beautiful bird enjoying yummy sunflower seeds

There are lots of birds that eat sunflower seeds entirely or partially. Some examples are:

1. Cardinals:

Cardinals Love sunflower seeds and they can eat them whole or half depending on how big the seed is. They are known to crack open the shell vertically which generates two pieces of seed.

2. Chickadees:

Chickadees love cracking open sunflower seeds and eating them that’s why they are always found around people who provide bird feeders. Their favorite type of seeds is Striped Sunflower Seeds, Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, and High-Oil Sunflower Seeds depending on what part of America they originate from.

3. Sparrows:

They will hold the sunflower seed and use their beaks to break it open and eat out the kennel. Additionally, they hold the seed in one claw and use their beak to break it apart.

4. Ducks:

These birds will crack open a black sunflower seed with their beak before eating it whole. They like this type of Sunflower Seed for Birds because it’s easy to open and has a high oil content.

5. Grosbeaks:

The grosbeak loves the striped sunflower seed, but they will eat big black oil or high-oil sunflower seeds too. They use their beaks to break open the shell before eating the kernel inside.

2. Finches:

They will use their beaks to open the shell and eat the striped sunflower seed while discarding the black or gray shell.

3. Quails:

These birds like eating sunflower seeds, but they also like eating whole corn too. They hold it with their claws and break it open to get the kernel inside before eating it.

4. Thrushes:

These birds will use their beaks to crack open the striped sunflower seed and eat it while discarding the shell.

5. Woodpeckers:

Woodpeckers like eating black oil or high-oil sunflower seeds, but they prefer black oil because they are easier to open. They use their beaks to peel away the shell and eat the kernel inside.

6. Chickens:

These birds like eating black oil sunflower seeds because they are easier to break open than striped ones which take longer. They hold it firmly between their claws while pecking it open with their sharp beak until they get to the kennel.

There are many more birds that like sunflower seeds like doves, jays, etc… but the list would go on and on.

Are sunflower seeds bad for wild birds?

Cute sparrows eating sunflower seeds along with peanuts

Well, you should know that there is a limit to how much sunflower seeds the birds can eat without any negative effects. As long as they have enough food and water sources it will be okay.

If you give them too many sunflower seeds for a short period of time, they will return to their natural diet probably because it gets too boring for them. This is why it’s best to give small portions of sunflower seeds at different times during the day.

Can birds eat whole sunflower seeds?

Yes, but it depends on the bird. Some can eat them whole while others cannot. Woodpeckers, flickers, and other types of birds that have strong beaks will not have a problem with eating whole sunflower seeds.

Can birds eat sunflower seeds with salt?

Birds can eat sunflower seeds with salt because they like the taste of it. However, if you will feel uncomfortable knowing that there is some salt on their skin try brushing it off with a toothbrush before giving them to the birds or feed them at another time.

Are black oil sunflower seeds better for birds than striped ones?

Yes, because of the color difference which makes it easier for different types of birds to tell apart what kind of seed they are getting. Also, these striped ones might be harder to open and eat.

Do Birds Open Sun Flower Seeds Before Eating?

Birds crack open the sunflower seed using their powerful beaks and eat it right away. In the case of big birds, they have a special technique to do so.

They first find a flat rock on the ground, then they bring the seed on top of the rock, and with one strike of their powerful beak, they split it open.

However, smaller birds don’t have much energy so to spare, they crack open the sunflower using their beak after picking it from a bird feeder.

Can you grow sunflowers to attract birds?

Yes, you can, but the most important thing is to put some sort of feeder or birdbath so they can eat and drink after eating the seeds.

What’s the best way to attract birds to my yard with sunflowers?

Well, it depends on what kind of activity you want them doing in your yard. If you just want them for watching then growing colorful flowers will also work too. However, if you want them to eat then putting up a feeder will do the job just fine.

Do different types of Sunflower Seeds attract wild birds differently?

A bird opening and eating seeds from a bird feeding pot

Yes, some wild birds prefer certain types of sunflower seeds like cardinals like striped ones more than black oil or high-oil sunflower seeds because they are harder to break open. Woodpeckers, on the other hand, prefer black oil over striped ones because they are easier to peck open.

Do yellow finches eat sunflower seeds?

Yes, yellow finches eat black oil sunflower seeds because they are easier to open than striped ones. They usually pick them up at the ground after they fall off from a bird feeder or shelf.

Are There Any Side Effects of Sun Flower Seeds?

Yes, if you feed sunflower seeds to your wild birds for long periods of time they might suffer from Vitamin A toxicity. Other side effects are increased body weight, thinning eggshells because it interferes with calcium metabolism.

Final Words

Do Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds Whole? No, they don’t because sunflower seeds’ shells are harder to digest. However, birds use their beaks to crack open the shell and eat the kernel of the seed.

Additionally, there are different types of sunflower seeds and that is why different bird species will prefer different types of sunflower seeds. Therefore, if you are feeding wild birds in your backyard, make sure to leave multiple types of seeds. It will make it easy for the birds to eat whatever they like.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and learned everything related to birds and sunflower seeds. If you have something to discuss please feel free to leave a comment below.

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