Feeding Sunflower Hearts To Birds
Sunflower Hearts are one of our most popular products and are able to be fed to a large number of different bird species.
- What are Sunflower Hearts
- Where do Sunflower Seeds come from?
- Types of Sunflower Seeds
- Which birds eat Sunflower Hearts / Seeds?
- Benefits of feeding Sunflower Hearts to birds
- How to feed Sunflower Hearts to birds
- Storing Sunflower Hearts / Seeds
- Do Sunflower Seeds / Hearts go bad?
- Which size bag should I get and how long will they last?
- Why buy from Vine House Farm?
What are Sunflower Hearts?
Sunflower hearts are simply sunflower seeds but with the outer husk removed. Or in other words, sunflower hearts are the kernels of the total seed.
Where do Sunflower Seeds come from?
Sunflower seeds come from the flowers of sunflower plants, with the seeds developing as the flower dies off at the end of the summer.
Types of Sunflower Seeds
Although there are many varieties of cultivated sunflower, there are basically just two types that are used for seed for feeding garden birds; striped sunflower and black sunflower seeds (also sometimes called black oil sunflower). Striped has a harder outer husk than black, which is one of the reasons why black is more popular as it’s easier for birds to remove the husk.
Sunflower hearts are usually just taken from black sunflower, and certainly that’s the case with the hearts we sell at Vine House Farm. An important reason for this is that the hearts from black sunflower seeds are higher in oil per gram versus striped sunflower, and therefore have a higher calorific value for birds.
Which birds eat Sunflower Hearts?
Sunflower hearts will potentially attract a large number of bird species to your garden, and notably most species of tit and finch, plus softbill species such as blackbird. A list of the more common species:
- Blue tit
- Coal tit
- Great tit
- House sparrow
- Great spotted woodpecker
- Collared Dove
Less common and more locally:
An addition to putting out sunflower hearts for ground feeding birds, is also to include sunflower heart chips as these are more easily eaten by robins, dunnocks and even pied wagtails.
Benefits of Feeding Sunflower Hearts to Birds
Sunflower hearts are almost certainly the single best food you can put out for the birds in your garden, with three main reasons being:
- Highly nutritious
They’re incredibly nutritious compared to most other foods, with the very high fat content – which you can see in the table above – being the key factor.
- Can be eaten by a large number of bird species
They can and will be eaten by virtually all garden birds, with the only potential limiting factor being how they’re fed – see below on how to feed. This is a key difference to black sunflower seeds, because softbill species such as blackbird can’t remove the husk but can easily eat a sunflower heart.
- They leave very little waste
They leave very little waste, with just a thin and wispy outer coat of the heart removed by some birds – in particular finches. Lack of waste should be a major reason to opt for sunflower hearts if you’re short on time, because with so little waste there’s far less risk of birds contracting a disease such as salmonella as a result of rotting husks building up on the ground. Read more about hygiene when feeding garden birds.
How to feed Sunflower Hearts to birds
Providing a mix of different feeding methods is central to success if as many species of bird in your garden are to benefit from sunflower hearts:
- Hanging seed feeders
A hanging seed feeder is an essential part of the mix, with this mainly used by finches and tits. Finch species such as goldfinch will sit on a perch to eat the sunflower hearts, whereas tit species such as great tit will fly off with a single heart, find a suitable natural perch like a twig, hold the heart with its feet, then chip away and consume small chunks. Using a hanging feeder with round perches will also allow chaffinches and even ground feeding birds like robins to also get to the food (robins swallow the sunflower hearts whole).
- Ground trays or bird tables
A ground tray or bird table, such as this copper roof bird table, allows species such as blackbird, dunnock and collared dove (none of which will use the hanging feeder – though blackbirds do sometimes try) to easily feed.
- Caged feeders
Larger species of bird such as jackdaw and also unwanted grey squirrels will generally be attracted to the easy meal which sunflower hearts represent. So, whilst you should always have at least some open feeders and ground trays (otherwise species like blackbird will miss out), having at least one caged feeder, such as this Ring Pull Guardian or a Squirrel Buster Feeder or one where the ports close when a heavier bird or squirrel stands on the perch, is always a good idea. Read our guides on deterring squirrels and how to keep Jackdaws off your bird feeders for more information on this topic.
You can also scatter sunflower hearts loose on the ground, but only in a quantity which will be eaten each day and, therefore, won’t be left overnight. Two main reasons being a) so rats aren’t attracted, and b) because sunflower hearts are harmful to hedgehogs.
Storing Sunflower Hearts / Seeds
With storage also being easy and much the same as any other type of bird food, it’s important to keep them in a sealed container and in a relatively cool place such as a garage.
Do Sunflower Seeds / Hearts go bad?
Provided they’re kept dry in a sealed container and in a cool place, then no they won’t go bad. Also, the popularity of sunflower hearts with garden birds means that a supply is quickly used up anyway.
Which size bag should I buy?
The larger the size the better value for money. However, if you haven’t tried feeding sunflower hearts to your garden birds before, then we’d recommend starting with a 6kg bag, then if that works then move to a 13kg sack.
Buy Sunflower Hearts from Vine House Farm
So, in summary, there’s no real negatives to feeding sunflower hearts for the birds in your garden, with them being enjoyed by a range of different bird species.
High quality bird feed is of course something you can be assured of when you buy from Vine House Farm and, it’s important to note that, although generally seen as a commodity product, not all sunflower hearts on the market are of the same quality. Indeed, we’ve been horrified to see the state of some sunflower hearts available online and in stores, with the product being dirty, broken into pieces, and with a percentage of husks either on some seeds or just loose. So if you find prices for sunflower hearts online which are lower than ours, then please don’t assume the quality will be comparable. And if the price is much lower, then there’s great cause for suspicion!
Our sunflower hearts come in five different pack sizes, with four weights available for sunflower heart chips.
Buying from us also means that The Wildlife Trusts benefit every time.