Safflower: The Secret Weapon

What if I told you there was a bird seed that the whopping majority of songbirds love, but grackles, starlings, and even squirrels hate? Sounds too good to be true, you say. It isn’t. Safflower seeds are my secret weapon to keeping the pests at bay!

If you recall the Official Bird Seed Tier List, I gave safflower an A-tier position with only Black Stripe Sunflower seeds reaching the S-tier slot. Safflower isn’t S-tier due to its price and that it generally does not attract as many birds as sunflower, though if it was cheaper, I could see myself moving safflower to A-tier.

If you’re someone who’s gotten sick of pests and wants to try safflower, you may need to try a few tricks to convince the birds to make the switch. Safflower is rarely included in bird seed blends so the birds may not know what to do with safflower if it’s offered exclusively. What you can do to get your feathered friends is to mix safflower in with your regular offerings. Start putting more and more safflower in until that’s all you’re serving.

Chickadee with a peanut
My favorites, the chickadees, seem to love safflower!

Birds are creatures of habit and will recognize your feeders as a place to get food. Eventually they’ll come around to giving safflower a try and they’ll start eating it.

I’ve watched cardinals, chickadees, and finches all enjoy safflower, to name a few. Cardinals especially seem to love it!

Unless I’m trying to attract as many birds as possible for photography, my tray feeders are generally stocked with safflower exclusively. The caged squirrel-proof feeder which excludes the pests anyway will be stocked with more “treat” seeds while the tray serves the bigger birds with safflower. It’s a winning setup that only seems to exclude Blue Jays, who don’t seem to care for safflower.

If you like having larger feeders where many birds can share at once, but have trouble with bully birds or squirrels, you need to give safflower seeds a try! Allegedly, chipmunks will go after safflower, so if they’re you’re trouble, this won’t solve your problem. Putting up a baffle might be your best bet, or you could try using hot sauce or cayenne pepper powder in conjunction with safflower. The birds can’t taste the spiciness but rodents hate it.

There are two varieties of safflower seeds: white and golden. The golden is also sold as NutraSaff and was actually specially developed as a bird seed. According to Safflower Technologies International, which apparently is a thing, NutraSaff was designed by scientists to make safflower more appetizing to birds. The shells on NutraSaff are thinner and there is more oil, fat, and protein, making NutraSaff more nutritious for birds. STI also claims that birds are more attracted to NutraSaff than standard safflower.

The biggest drawback is price. Safflower is more expensive than sunflower, with NutraSaff being both more expensive and harder to find. But if you don’t mind paying a few extra bucks, safflower and NutraSaff are a win-win.

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