What Animals Eat Sunflower Seeds? (8 Examples + Pictures)

Last updated on October 10th, 2022

If you’ve been wondering what to do with your sunflower heads, why don’t you try feeding them to animals?

There are indeed several animals that love munching on sunflower seeds. So the next time you think of disposing of the sunflower heads, you should try giving these to the birds and animals that visit your garden.

Animals that eat sunflower seeds:

  • Chickadees
  • Squirrels
  • Nuthatches
  • Black Bears
  • Mice
  • Grosbeaks
  • Chipmunks
  • Ants

For example, if you want to attract birds to your garden to increase pollination, you could include sunflower seeds in your bird feeders.

This is because sunflower seeds have a high-fat content which is attractive for most birds.

Additionally, birds need food with high energy content, which makes sunflower seeds an excellent addition to their regular diet of grains.

List of animals that eat sunflower seeds:

1. Chickadees

chickadee eating sunflower seed 15082021

Chickadees are one of the few birds that love sunflower seeds. Being a small bird, a chickadee can easily carry a sunflower seed in its beak.

Also, sunflower seeds are rich in Iron, Copper, Selenium, Manganese, and Zinc. These are minerals that aren’t often found in other seeds.

Despite being a small bird, a chickadee has to supplement its diet with ample nutrients and minerals.

The chickadee bird can consume fifty sunflower seeds per day, especially during the winter season.

If you’ve observed a chickadee closely, you’ll find that it continuously flutters its wings, which causes several calories to be wasted. The fluttering is usually a sign of nesting.

This continuous movement of the wings requires a significant amount of energy.

Moreover, the chickadee requires additional energy to fly and forage for food and water.

Therefore, the chickadee needs to replenish this loss of energy by consuming food dense in calories and rich in minerals.

Sunflower seeds are the best option, and hence, most chickadees prefer to consume a large number of sunflower seeds.

Sometimes chickadees will be found consuming more sunflower seeds, especially if the birds are stockpiling for winter.

2. Squirrels

squirrel eating sunflower seed 16082021

Squirrels are great collectors of nuts. Amongst the several types of nuts that squirrels collect, sunflower seeds are their second favorite.

Sunflower seeds are readily available in the wild and contain a high amount of iron and magnesium.

This ensures that squirrels get a good amount of minerals into their body by consuming sunflower seeds.

However, if you have a pet squirrel, try to mix sunflower seeds with corn because one hundred grams of sunflower seeds have seventy-eight milligrams of calcium while corn is low in calcium so this offers a good balance in their diet.

Since sunflower seeds contain calcium, this helps in building the bones of these animals.

Hence, it’s best to make sunflower seeds a part of their diet to ensure that they get a good amount of essential nutrients.

Additionally, sunflower seeds contain a high amount of fat, allowing squirrels to hibernate during winter.

It’s worth noting that ground squirrels hibernate during the winter and not tree squirrels.

It has been found that sunflower seeds make up nearly five percent of a wild squirrel’s diet.

3. Nuthatches

nuthatch eating sunflower seed 15082021

Nuthatches are primarily insectivorous birds. But you’ll sometimes see them feeding on nuts.

The primary reason for this is nuts are rich in fat, and nuthatches require a calorie-dense diet.

Sunflower seeds are also high in fat, and nuthatches can easily detect the resinous smell of the sunflower seeds since they can easily locate it amongst the other seeds.

If you’re planning to attract nuthatches to your garden, you must place black oil sunflower seeds in the bird feeder.

Nuthatches are often considered ‘bully birds’ as these birds are slightly bigger than most of the birds you would generally find near your bird feeder.

But black sunflower seeds are a favorite of nuthatches as these have high-fat content and are relatively oily.

Once you’ve placed these in the bird feeder, these seeds are bound to attract any nuthatches passing through the area.

You can then watch these birds expertly peck out the sunflower seeds from the feeder.

Being a bully bird, other birds will naturally leave the feeder once the nuthatches arrive, allowing you a clear view of the birds.

4. Black Bears

black bear 15082021

Being an omnivore, a bear can consume almost anything from plants to nuts to meat.

Although the black bear is a large animal, it’s known to have the capacity to consume large amounts of nuts.

However, among the various nuts it consumes, sunflower seeds seem to be one of its favorites.

The primary reason for this is that sunflower seeds are tasty, nutritious, and highly sought after by these bears.

Black bears are fond of bird seeds and are known for seeking out bird feeders to sniff out and eat black oil sunflower seeds.

Black bears need to consume high-fat foods to supplement their dietary requirements.

Moreover, black bears need to consume food with high-fat content to keep them warm throughout winter which is why they prefer black sunflower seeds.

In most cases, black bears hibernate to conserve energy. Although hibernation results in a loss of fat, once the bear wakes up, it must replenish the fat that was lost.

As a result, black bears are quickly drawn toward sunflower seeds that are abundant during the summer season.

Black bears hibernate for seven to eight months without eating, drinking, eliminating waste, or moving from their den.

Since the winter season lasts around three months followed by the spring season which lasts for three months as well, a black bear’s hibernation usually ends two months into summer.

The oily seeds help the bears to replenish the lost fat quickly. This is one of the reasons why people are advised not to put up bird feeders in regions that black bears regularly visit.

Bears often tend to pull down the feeders causing harm to themselves and the structure.

5. Mice

mice eating sunflower seed 15082021

Mice belong to the rodent family, and like other rodent family members, they love eating sunflower seeds.

Mice are primarily omnivores which means they’ll eat both plants and meat.

But unless you’re thinking of the large and dangerous rodents, the usual small mice prefer eating fruits, seeds, and grains.

They also enjoy eating nuts, and black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite.

One of the reasons why mice prefer sunflower seeds is the outer shell of the seed.

The outer husk of sunflower seeds is harder, and mice enjoy nibbling the seeds. If you want to experiment, then put a tray with several types of nuts along with sunflower seeds.

You’ll soon find that the sunflower seeds are the most attractive of all the seeds, and mice will eat these first because of the way it smells.

Sunflower seeds have a simple resinous aroma, which mice find to be attractive. This is one of the reasons why mice tend to consume sunflower seeds first in a collection of seeds.

6. Grosbeaks

rose breasted grosbeak eating sunflower seed 15082021

The grosbeaks are unique birds of the finch family, and these birds are becoming harder to spot.

You can sometimes see the red-breasted grosbeaks near your bird feeder, but the sighting has started becoming rarer.

The grosbeak too prefers the black sunflower seeds because of the high-energy fat content and mostly since it’s easier to crack than a regular sunflower seed.

The grosbeak follows a mixed diet in which most of the year it consumes buds, seeds, and fruit.

But during the summer months, it often forages for insects to supplement their protein requirements.

However, its favorite seed is the sunflower seed. If you’re a bird watcher and plan to attract the grosbeaks in your area, you should put some sunflower seeds in the feeder.

You can combine it with other seeds or only place sunflower seeds. It has been found that sunflower seeds are the best way to attract grosbeaks.

7. Chipmunks

chipmunk eating sunflower seed 15082021

Chipmunks are omnivores, which means they can consume nuts and have a diet similar to squirrels.

But, unlike squirrels, chipmunks don’t hibernate during winter. Hence, they need to collect nuts and store these in burrows that they dig underground.

If you suddenly see sunflower plants sprouting in a specific section of your garden, you can rest assured knowing that chipmunks have burrowed and stored sunflower seeds.

The primary reason why chipmunks are attracted to black oil sunflower seeds is that the shells are thinner and easier to crack.

Since chipmunks will not be able to gather any food during winter, these little creatures must gather suitable seeds and nuts throughout spring and summer that will help them tide over the harshest of winter.

One hundred grams of sunflower seeds contain nearly fifty-one grams of fat. This is a necessary nutrient to help chipmunks through the winter season.

Fat is essential as this will keep them warm and prevent them from losing any body fat.

The calorie loss is already increased in winter as the chipmunks need to keep themselves warm.

Hence, by consuming sunflowers seeds, they can keep the fat content of their body intact while keeping themselves warm.

8. Ants

ants eating sunflower 13082022

Ants can eat sunflower seeds and it is possible that you will find holes in the seeds after they have eaten them.

These insects usually scavenge the bits and pieces around the bird feeders, not the whole sunflower seed.

In contrast, because the shells of black oil sunflower seeds are thinner and easier to pierce, ants are also attracted to them.

We wrote an entire article on ants eating sunflowers which you can read more about over there.

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