What Birds Will Not Eat Safflower Seeds? (And How to Cater to a Variety of Birds)

Safflower seeds are a popular choice among bird enthusiasts who wish to attract a variety of bird species to their feeders. These seeds have a distinct advantage over other options, as they tend to be less appealing to unwanted visitors like squirrels and some less desirable bird species. However, there are specific birds that seem to avoid safflower seeds in favor of other options like sunflower seeds or millet.

Understanding the types of birds that do not prefer safflower seeds can help determine the most effective way to attract the desired species to your feeder. By incorporating a mix of seed types, you can create an inviting environment for a diverse range of birds while deterring those you’d rather not have in your backyard. Alternative feeding options, like suet, fruit, or mealworms, can also add variety to your bird feeding station, attracting even more feathered friends.

Key Takeaways

  • Some birds, such as American goldfinches and common grackles, avoid safflower seeds
  • Several bird species prefer different seed types, like sunflower seeds or millet
  • To attract a diverse range of birds, consider offering a mix of seeds and alternative food options

Safflower Seeds vs Sunflower Seeds

Safflower seeds and sunflower seeds are both popular choices in bird feeding but have some distinct differences. Sunflower seeds come in two varieties: black oil and striped. Black oil sunflower seeds are known for their thin shells, making it easy for birds to crack them open. The kernels within these seeds are high in fat, which is extremely valuable for winter birds. Striped sunflower seeds, on the other hand, have thicker shells, making it more challenging for birds like House Sparrows to crack them open.

Safflower seeds are a thistle-like annual with bright orange and yellow flowers. These seeds are slightly smaller than sunflower seeds but share a similar tapered shape. Unlike sunflower seeds, safflower seeds have a hard white shell and a slightly bitter flavor. However, their high levels of protein, fat, and fiber make them a nutritious option for various backyard birds.

When it comes to bird preferences, finches, nuthatches, chickadees, and grosbeaks love sunflower seeds but may not favor safflower seeds due to their hard shell and bitter taste. Conversely, doves, northern cardinals, and some other species prefer safflower seeds over sunflower seeds.

Read Next: Which Birds Eat Safflower Seeds?

Birds That Prefer Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds are a popular choice among bird enthusiasts for attracting a variety of songbirds to their feeders. These seeds have a unique nutritional profile that appeals to certain bird species. In this section, we will explore the different types of birds that have a preference for safflower seeds and their nutritional preferences.

Cardinals and Grosbeaks

Cardinals and grosbeaks are known for their strong beaks and ability to crack open the thick shells of safflower seeds. These birds are attracted to the high fat and protein content of safflower seeds, which provide essential nutrients for their survival. Northern Cardinals and rose-breasted grosbeaks are common visitors to feeders offering safflower seeds.


House finches and purple finches also enjoy safflower seeds, while American goldfinches, on the other hand, typically prefer other types of seeds like sunflower seeds or millet. House finches and purple finches are drawn to the nutritional benefits of safflower seeds, such as the high levels of fat and protein, which help support their energetic lifestyles.

Sparrows and Doves

Sparrows and doves, including mourning doves and house sparrows, find safflower seeds to be an appealing food source. These birds benefit from the nutritious contents of the seeds despite their smaller beaks, as they are able to successfully crack open the shells to reach the fatty, protein-rich kernel inside.

Woodpeckers and Nuthatches

Woodpeckers, such as the downy woodpecker and red-bellied woodpecker, along with white-breasted nuthatches, are also fans of safflower seeds. These birds have the ability to hold onto the seeds with their strong feet while using their sharp beaks to break open the shells and extract the nutritious kernel.

Birds Avoiding Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds might be a popular choice for some bird species, but there are a few bird types that tend to shy away from these seeds. This avoidance is primarily due to two factors: the seeds’ bitter taste caused by saponin and their hard, unappetizing shell. This section will discuss specific bird categories that don’t usually eat safflower seeds.

Blue Jays and Blackbirds

Blue jays are known for being picky eaters, and they aren’t fans of safflower seeds. These intelligent birds prefer other types of seeds, such as sunflower seeds or peanuts. Similarly, blackbirds, including red-winged blackbirds, avoid safflower seeds due to their bitterness. They would rather eat other, tastier seed varieties.

Grackles and Cowbirds

Grackles, particularly the common grackle, aren’t likely to eat safflower seeds either. The bitterness doesn’t appeal to them, and they have plenty of other options to choose from in their natural diet. Cowbirds, while not as picky as other birds, still don’t often indulge in safflower seeds. They usually opt for a wider range of foods, such as insects and grains.

Starlings and Pigeons

Starlings, like many birds on this list, tend to avoid safflower seeds due to their unappetizing shape and bitter taste. Pigeons also don’t show much interest in these seeds. They have a diverse diet that includes seeds, grains, insects, and even human food scraps when available.

Feeder Choice and Squirrel-Proofing

When it comes to selecting the right bird feeder and keeping squirrels at bay, there are various factors to consider. Bird feeders come in several types, including tube feeders, platform feeders, and squirrel-proof feeders, all designed to accommodate different bird species and settings.

Tube feeders are a popular choice due to their compact design and easy-to-use nature. They come with smaller feeding ports, making them an ideal option for feeding smaller birds that enjoy safflower seeds, like cardinals and chickadees. Moreover, they are less likely to attract squirrels compared to platform feeders which provide easy access.

Platform feeders, on the other hand, are an open feeding area that attracts a broader variety of bird species. As they provide more space, they might encourage larger birds to feed, which may not be inclined towards safflower seeds. However, this open design can also make it easier for squirrels to get to the seeds and deter birds from visiting.

Squirrel-proof feeders aim to keep squirrels out while still providing food for birds. A common squirrel-proofing technique involves using bitter-tasting seeds like safflower, as squirrels are less attracted to these seeds. As a result, you can encourage birds to feed on safflower seeds while discouraging squirrel visits.

To further squirrel-proof your bird feeder, there are a few strategies you can employ. For instance, follow the Rule of 5-7-9, which suggests placing the feeder at least 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet away from jumping-off points, and using a 9-inch baffle to prevent squirrels from climbing the pole. Alternatively, you can consider using caged bird feeders, which provide a protective barrier around the feeder to keep squirrels out.

Notable Ingredients in Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds, derived from the Carthamus tinctorius plant, are a popular food source for various bird species. These seeds contain a variety of essential nutrients, including protein, which play a pivotal role in supporting overall bird health.

One remarkable aspect of safflower seeds is their high protein content. Birds require protein for growth, repair, and maintenance of their feathers, muscles, and tissues. In addition to protein, safflower seeds also contain essential fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid, which helps birds build and maintain strong cellular structures.

Despite the nutritional benefits that safflower seeds offer, some bird species do not favor them as a part of their diet. This can be attributed to the seeds’ slightly bitter taste and hard, thick shell that certain birds find difficult to crack. As a result, safflower seeds are more popular among birds like cardinals, jays, and chickadees, while others like house sparrows, starlings, and blackbirds tend to avoid them.

When to Offer Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds can be a great addition to your bird feeding routine, especially during certain times of the year. These seeds are particularly useful during the winter months when food sources for birds can be scarce. Offering safflower seeds in your bird feeders during this time can help provide essential nutrients to a variety of bird species.

By offering a variety of seeds in different feeders, you can cater to the preferences of multiple bird species. For instance, you can combine safflower seeds with black-oil sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, or peanuts to attract a greater variety of birds. But remember, it’s crucial to monitor the amount of safflower seeds you offer because they are high in calories and can lead to obesity in birds if given in excessive amounts.

In short, safflower seeds are a beneficial addition to bird feeders, particularly during the winter months when natural food sources become scarce. Remember to provide them in moderation and consider offering other seed types for maximum variety.

Attracting Diverse Birds with Alternative Food Options

One way to draw a variety of bird species to your backyard is to offer a diverse range of foods. Although some birds may not eat safflower seeds, incorporating other food options can attract different birds.

Including berries in your bird feeders can be an attractive option for many fruit-eating birds. Birds such as robins, thrushes, and waxwings relish these treats. Besides, planting berry-producing bushes in your garden adds an extra benefit of providing both food and shelter for your feathered friends.

Nuts, like peanuts, can entice many species, from woodpeckers to blue jays. These high-energy foods offer essential fats and proteins, making them a valuable menu item in the colder months. You can offer shelled or unshelled nuts, or peanut butter during the winter season to provide extra calories.

Insects play a crucial role in birds’ diets, particularly during breeding and nesting seasons. Offering mealworms, either live or dried, can attract birds such as bluebirds, wrens, and chickadees. Additionally, you could plant flowers that attract insects, creating a natural feeding ground for insectivorous birds.

When it comes to seeds, both nyjer (thistle) and millet are popular among bird enthusiasts. Nyjer seeds are oil-rich and adored by finches, and millet is beloved by ground-feeding birds like sparrows and doves. Consider adding these seeds to your feeders to create a more diverse menu.

Lastly, offering fruits such as apples, oranges, and grapes can help cater to various species of birds, including orioles and tanagers. You can either place ripe fruit on a platform feeder or create fruit kebabs by skewering them. This method not only attracts birds but also adds visual interest to your garden.

By providing a wide range of food options such as berries, nuts, insects, mealworms, nyjer, thistle, peanuts, fruits, and millet, you’ll be able to welcome an array of bird species into your backyard. Remember always to maintain clean feeders to ensure a healthy environment for your feathery visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do sparrows avoid safflower seeds?

Although sparrows do eat safflower seeds, they are not as attracted to them as they are to other types of seeds like sunflower or nyjer. If you’re looking to attract sparrows to your yard with birdseed, you might want to stick with one of those other options.

Which seeds do finches prefer over safflower seeds?

Finches are known to enjoy a variety of seeds, including sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds. While they will eat safflower seeds, sunflower and nyjer seeds might be more appealing to them.

Are safflower seeds unappealing to rats?

It’s not specifically mentioned whether rats find safflower seeds unappealing. However, safflower seeds are considered to be less attractive to certain larger birds and some animals, such as squirrels.

What makes safflower seeds less attractive to squirrels?

Safflower seeds have a slightly bitter taste, which squirrels tend to dislike. This makes safflower seeds a good option for bird feeders if you want to deter squirrels from consuming the seeds intended for birds.

Do grackles typically consume safflower seeds?

Grackles and starlings are known to be less attracted to safflower seeds. In fact, they don’t seem to care much for safflower seed at all. This can be beneficial if you’re trying to keep bully birds away from your bird feeders.

Can juncos be found eating safflower seeds?

While juncos are not specifically mentioned among the birds that eat safflower seeds, it’s possible that they may consume them. However, other seeds, such as sunflower and nyjer, are likely preferred by a wider variety of birds, including juncos.

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