can birds eat shelled sunflower seeds

Which birds eat sunflower seeds? A better question might be which birds don’t! Sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts are a real favourite for garden birds including blue tits, sparrows, dunnocks, collared doves finches and more. When it comes to choosing sunflower seeds for garden birds there are several options available. In this article, we are going to look at which to choose and how and when to offer them.

What Are The Different Types of Sunflower Seeds?

For birds, there are three varieties of sunflower seeds that are easily accessible.

These are the seeds or the sunflowers you might grow in your garden.

Actually, keeping the seed heads of the sunflowers you have grown and placing them on the bird table is a great way to give sunflower seeds to your garden birds.

Nutritious striped sunflower seeds will be well-received by numerous birds. However, they are fairly large seeds with tough husks. So smaller birds and softbills may struggle with them.

can birds eat shelled sunflower seeds

Another problem with striped sunflower seeds is that most birds leave the husks behind, which can leave your lawn looking messy.

With sunflower seed husks the problem goes a bit beyond just mess. The seed husks contain an allelopathic chemical with can suppress or kill other plants. It’s nature’s way of suppressing competitive plants to give the seed a chance to germinate and grow. But when a concentration of sunflower seed husks falls on your lawn it’s just going to lead to bald patches.

Larger birds in your garden will primarily steal the seeds from your striped sunflower, such as:

Squirrels are also fans of these seeds. Therefore, placing a few of these on the ground, away from your bird table and feeders, may help deter larger birds and squirrels.

Can Birds Eat Roasted Sunflower Seeds?

While roasted sunflower seeds are fine on their own, most varieties sold for human consumption also frequently include salt. And salt isn’t good for birds.

Therefore, it’s probably best to refrain from giving birds roasted sunflower seeds.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Compared to their striped counterpart, black or black oil sunflower seeds are smaller and have softer husks or shells. This means that they can be tackled by smaller birds.

can birds eat shelled sunflower seeds

They are an excellent year-round food because they also contain a higher concentration of beneficial oils.

Though they are unlikely to be planted by softbills like blackbirds or robins, these seeds still have husks, so they will still make a mess in your garden.

The following larger birds will consume these seeds in addition to:

And sadly squirrels also love black oil sunflower seeds.

Sunflower hearts may initially appear to be the most costly method of providing your garden birds with sunflower seeds. But pound for pound they are actually pretty good value. This is because de-husked, or shelled, sunflower seeds are what cause sunflower hearts.

This brings some big advantages.

First, the whole thing gets eaten by the bird. Therefore, compared to seeds in their shells, you are receiving far more nutrition for your money by weight.

Birds can consume them more rapidly and with less energy since there is no husk to break. This is really helpful for a bird that is having trouble maintaining its body mass.

There is no mess on your lawn because there are no husks—another tick

Soft bill birds who wouldn’t be able to enjoy the other varieties of sunflower seeds can now access these highly nutritious seeds because they don’t contain husks.

Furthermore, because sunflower hearts—especially chipped hearts—are small and soft enough to not choke chicks, they are safe to feed during nesting season.

However, if you wish to serve sunflower hearts as a treat in your garden, there are a few disadvantages that you will need to address.

Firstly, they are hugely popular. You can pretty much guarantee that other varieties of sunflower seeds will be disregarded if you are offering hearts. Since they can get pricey, you should probably limit their availability and include them only in a portion of the food you serve.

Second, sunflower hearts can spoil more quickly and turn mushy in wet weather, clogging your bird feeders, because they are not shielded by a shell. You’ll have to monitor this and clean as necessary.

Almost all of your garden birds can benefit from the nutritional value of sunflower seeds thanks to sunflower hearts. Thus, the softbills will enjoy hearts in addition to all the other species that like sunflower seeds in their shells:

And squirrels of course!


Do birds prefer shelled or unshelled seeds?

Small birds (like Wrens, Robins, etc) have tiny mouths and difficulty opening nuts and seeds — so they prefer shelled, unsalted seeds. Larger birds (crows, etc) have no problem opening shells and they will gladly take them either way.

Do shelled sunflower seeds for birds go bad?

Like any food, birdseed can spoil or grow moldy if it’s not stored correctly. Spoiled birdseed not only contributes to the spread of bird disease, but it exposes you and your family to harmful organisms that make people sick.

Are sunflower seeds better shelled or unshelled?

Sunflower seeds can be eaten either shelled or unshelled, depending on your preference and also why you’re eating them. If you’re trying to lose weight, then eating unshelled sunflower seeds is a great choice because they take longer to eat and help you feel fuller.

What is the difference between hulled and unhulled sunflower seeds?

Hulled sunflower seeds are simply sunflower seeds with the shell removed. Often referred to as “no mess” sunflower, the lack of hulls does indeed reduce the chaff underneath feeders.