Backyard Birds Love Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

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There are some big benefits of serving black oil sunflower seeds in your backyard. Plus, see which birds love these sunflower seeds the most.

Attract More Birds With Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

White-breasted nuthatch eating sunflower seedsSteve and Dave Maslowski
White-breasted nuthatch eating sunflower seeds

We all have opinions on the best ways to feed birds. But we can all agree on one thing: The greater variety of birds, the better. Serve up black oil sunflower seeds, also called oilers, and you have a pretty good chance at a big payoff.

Learn how to choose sunflower seeds for birds.

Why You Should Serve Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds isolated on white backgroundwindu/Shutterstock
Black oil sunflower seeds

Birds focus on foods that have a big return on investment. So setting out seeds that are high in fat, such as black oil sunflower seeds, is an easy way to help birds enjoy a nutrient-dense snack, especially during the breeding season and winter weather.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, these seeds have thin shells, making them easier to crack open than striped sunflower seeds.

“Black oil sunflower seeds are related to regular sunflower seeds, but they’ve been cultivated to have a higher fat content,” says John Rowden, the senior director of bird-friendly communities at the National Audubon Society.

If you prefer to buy the striped variety, ensure that the seeds are approved for wildlife and are completely unsalted and unseasoned.

Discover the 3 types of seeds and feeders birds love best.

Which Birds Love Black Oil Sunflower Seeds?

black oil sunflower seedCourtesy Mel Lockhart
Tufted titmouse eating black oil sunflower seed.

You can expect any of these feathered friends to visit a sunflower seed bird feeder:

The Best Ways to Serve Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

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Northern cardinal on a bird feeder

To offer the high-fat treats safely and reduce seed spoilage, try tube feeders, recommends David Bonter, the co-director of the Cornell Lab’s Center for Engagement in Science and Nature. “They help keep the seed dry. We don’t want birdseed to get wet, because mold can form that is harmful to birds,” he says.

The clear hopper of the Perky-Pet Panorama Wild Bird Feeder keeps sunflower seeds dry and helps you monitor seed levels.

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Often, birders put out shelled sunflower seeds to minimize the mess. Try one of these no-mess bird feeders to keep your yard looking clean.

How to Keep Sunflower Seeds Fresh

red-winged blackbirdCourtesy Richard Nimtz
Red-winged blackbird flying off with a black oil sunflower seed

Because both sunflower hearts and chips quickly spoil, only dish out an amount that backyard birds can consume in a couple of days. If you notice stale or moldy seeds, David recommends cleaning bird feeders with soap, water and a 10% bleach solution.

If you’re not sure if it’s time to replace the seeds, David says, “have the birds tell you—birds tend to avoid seeds that have gone bad.”

Do safflower seeds deter squirrels?

Grow Your Own Sunflower Seeds

SunflowerOlaf Simon/Shutterstock
Grow sunflowers to attract more birds

Common sunflowers, such as the one above, are closely related to black oil sunflowers and are easy to find and grow. Plant sunflowers for a simple way to add another food source to your yard for visiting wild birds. Here’s how to grow a goldfinch garden with their favorite plants.

“Planting sunflowers in the backyard also provides host opportunities for insects, and the birds can then forage on them,” John says.

Check out the top 10 sunny sunflower varieties to grow.

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Kelsey Roseth
Kelsey Roseth is a freelance journalist and passionate birder based in Duluth, Minnesota. She is working to create a welcoming backyard for her favorite feathered friends.