Bird Watcher's General Store

07/07/00 - What's The Best Sunflower Seed?


Dear Bird Folks,

Last week you told us that we should avoid buying mixed seeds and just use sunflower seeds in our feeder. Great! So I ran out to buy some sunflower seeds, only to find that there are many kinds to choose from. What's the best?
- Can't Decide, Harwichport

Yo, Can't Decide,

This one is easy. The best one is the cheapest. Black oil sunflower is almost always the cheapest, so that is the best. Striped sunflower is used for humans and overpaid ballplayers so the price for that can be high. Plus, striped sunflower has a very heavy shell and it can leave expensive shells on the ground. The birds are happy to eat either, but given a choice, the black seed is more likely to be selected. Some people say the birds choose black oil sunflower because of its high oil content, however, the black seed also has a much thinner shell and I think that's why they like it best.

Years ago we used to sell quite a bit of striped sunflower, but for the last 15 years or so, we have sold very little. Last year black oil sunflower outsold striped 100 to 1. I'm not sure why people even buy striped at all, except that it is pretty to look at and, for a lot of us, that's all it takes.

There are a few other kinds of sunflower seeds to consider. There are sunflower seeds without the shell, also known as sunflower hearts. Sunflower hearts are like buying lobster meat: they can be expensive, but there is no mess to clean up and the birds don't have to wear those silly bibs. The birds like sunflower hearts just fine and there are no pricey shells left rotting on the ground. Finally, the last kind of sunflower to consider is called No.2 Sunflower. No.2 Sunflower is called by many different names, but it is basically a combination of sunflowers, most of them without shells. And like all the rest of the sunflower, the birds have no trouble chowing down a feeder full of No.2 Sunflower.

So which sunflower is the best to get? If you are cheap and want lots of birds, get the black oil. If you are rich and fussy, get the sunflower hearts. And if you are having company for dinner, buy the striped sunflower, they'll love it.


Artwork by Catherine Clark


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