After writing last week about how the tray feeder would be my choice if I could just one type of feeder, my mind naturally asked myself what type of seed I would choose if I could have just one. The answer to that question is, to me, obvious: black oil sunflower seeds.
For just a little bit more than an “economy” bag of bird seed, you can buy a bag of solo black oil sunflower seeds. And the sunflower seeds are 100% a better choice than a mixed bag full of filler.
Logic would tell you that having several different varieties of seed means you’re covering a broader spectrum of birds you can attract, but you’re leaving out hardly any seed-eating birds by only serving sunflower.
Unless you’re buying premium feed, you’re buying a bag of seed with cracked corn, milo, millet, or other “fillers” that only serve to up the poundage to get you to spend more. Will birds eat those fillers? Sure, some will. But the birds will just about always go for the more nutritious sunflower seeds. Milo is the biggest offender. Only sparrows, juncos, and doves will care for milo. The rest will ignore it.
But almost everyone goes nuts for sunflower.
Bluebirds also won’t eat sunflower, but they’re special birds who want mealworms or fruit. The only way I’ve been able to attract bluebirds is with mealworms, but you might have luck with a blend that has fruit in it like this one does.
I cannot name a single seed-eating bird that will turn down sunflower.
One additional advantage is that starlings aren’t huge fans of shelled sunflower. They can manage to eat it, but it’s a lot of work for their weak bills. You’ll see a lot less of them if you’re only serving seed with a shell. Birds prefer to get their nutrients with as little effort as possible, so giving them a bit of a challenge will dissuade them.
Squirrels will eat black oil sunflower seeds, so if you have a squirrel problem, I’m afraid these won’t help. Like pretty much any other seed blend, you’ll need to seek out other remedies to get rid of the furry critters. I’ve a big advocate of hot sauce or cayenne pepper, but there’s other solutions out there. That’s another post for another day. The good news is that black oil sunflower seeds are small and don’t really provide all that much to the squirrels, so they might not be as big of an issue versus using striped sunflower seed or peanuts.
That said, if you’re just starting out in bird feeding and don’t want to invest heavily, please don’t start buying fancy looking blends or even cheap blends. Just buy black oil sunflower seeds. I’d suggest setting them out in whatever feeder you go with and just seeing who comes to visit. If you start seeing a lot of finches stop by, maybe get a finch feeder. If you see a lot of grackles or squirrels, get a caged anti-squirrel feeder.
If you want bluebirds, just start mixing some mealworms into your sunflower seeds. Those two feed types together covers a humongous variety of birds.
On top of that, black oil sunflower seeds are high in oil content which birds need for energy. There are also plenty of other nutrients in there, so you’re giving your birds a healthy meal when you give them sunflower.
So, what’s the downside?
There are two downsides that I can think of is that it’s a lot more fun serving the birds a really fun mix. Birds, even among individuals, not just among species, have favorite foods. It’s nice to provide them with things they love and it just feels right giving them a variety.
The other downside is the mess. Birds will crack open and leave the shells behind, which can get messy, especially if your feeders are on a patio. A large accumulation of shells can also damage grass, so it’s something to consider. There are plenty of blends that don’t contain shelled bird seeds, but these have the disadvantage of attracting starlings.
The most important takeaway from this article should be to avoid buying cheap blends and consider just getting sunflower seed. If you want to get a blend, you’ll want to invest more to ensure you aren’t getting filler. Too many times, inexpensive blends contain filler to raise the weight of the bag and the only thing the birds really want is the sunflower.
Has this been your experience? What do you think of black oil sunflower seeds?