The Ultimate Bird Food: Black Oil Sunflower Seed

The Ultimate Bird Food: Black Oil Sunflower Seed

February 26, 2015 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)


There are so many different kinds of seeds in bird seed mixes and it can be kind of confusing to know what mix to buy and use in your feeders. Well today I wanted to shine some light on the ultimate bird food, black oil sunflower, and explain why you should buy mixes that contain a high percentage of this nutritious seed.

Black oil sunflower is a much loved food source for wild birds.  In fact, studies have shown that black oil sunflower is the top choice of most seed eating birds from chickadees to sparrows. So why is black oil sunflower so popular.

Well black oil sunflower has a very high oil content, as high as 40%. This oil content acts as a very important energy source for wild birds who have to stay warm in the winter, migrate in the spring and fall and raise young during the summer. There are other bird foods with high oil contents as well, like peanuts and safflower, but the birds appear to be more attracted to sunflower than these other food sources.

Sunflowers can be offered on their own or with other seeds in a mix but you will find that mixes with higher sunflower content will be more popular and attract a broader variety of birds than mixes with low sunflower content.

The great thing about sunflower though, is that in addition to feeding the sunflower seed whole in-shell, you can also feed sunflower kernels. Sunflower kernels are sunflower seeds that have had their shells removed by a dehuller. These kernels are sized to be either whole kernels or broken kernels in medium or small size pieces. We call these hulled sunflower kernels "sunflower chips" and one of our most popular products is our Mother Nature's Medium Sunflower Chips. Sunflower chips provide a "super accessible" high energy food source for birds. In addition, they are a "no mess" solution because there are no shells to clean up under the feeder and the broken kernels will not sprout.

If you buy the fine size sunflower kernels - Fine Sunflower Chips, you can use these chips in place of, or combined with, Nyjer seed in a finch tube feeder. The small sized chips will work just fine with the small size holes you will find in finch feeders. In fact, my experience is that the finches love the fine sunflower chips as much or more than Nyjer seed.

So hopefully, I have demystified black oil sunflowers a bit for you and you will understand why they are an important food for backyard bird feeding.