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What Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds

Charlene Williams

Many common backyard birds enjoy eating sunflower seeds. In fact, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the greatest variety of birds is attracted to black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

Cardinals are attracted to sunflower seeds.

Black oil sunflower seeds are preferable to birds because they provide the essential oils they need in the winter. Keep your bird feeder stocked with sunflower seeds and you’re sure to enjoy an assortment of colorful birds.


The female goldfinch is a duller yellow than the male.

Finches include a diverse group of small, often colorful birds frequently found in weedy fields and along roadsides. Finches are attracted to black oil sunflower seeds and nyjer seed placed in tubular feeders. The American goldfinch has a wide range throughout the United States. The male is a bright canary yellow with black markings, while the female is dull yellow. Often seen at bird feeders, the purple finch is not actually purple but has wine red markings on the head and neck. Common throughout the Southwest, the house finch is a small brown-streaked bird. The male house finch is distinguished by a red patch on the forehead and breast.


Sparrows are small, inconspicuous, brown-streaked birds that typically forage on the ground for seeds and insects. According to the National Audubon Society, more than 50 different species of sparrows are found in North America. Sparrows have adapted to life around humans and are often seen flocking together in both urban and suburban settings. Sparrows that are attracted to sunflower seeds include the white-crowned sparrow, white-throated sparrow, song sparrow and chipping sparrow.

Chickadees, Titmice and Nuthatches

The nuthatch is able to climb up and down tree trunks head first.

Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches are small, cheerful birds that typically inhabit wooded areas and are often seen together. These birds are insect eaters but also enjoy sunflower seeds. The Carolina chickadee is frequently seen at bird feeders throughout the southeastern United States. This chickadee is a small, light gray bird with a black throat and black-capped head. The tufted titmouse is a small, bluish-gray bird with a crest on its head. Distinguished by its ability to walk up and down tree trunks, the white breasted nuthatch has a dark gray back, white breast and black-capped head.

Cardinals and Grosbeaks

Members of the family Cardinalidae, cardinals and grosbeaks are characterized by their thick, conical-shaped bills designed for cracking seeds. Cardinals are often found in clearings and thickets and are fond of sunflower seeds. The male cardinal is easily recognized by its bright red color, black eye markings and prominent crest. The female is a dull brown color. Cardinals are year-round favorites throughout the eastern United States. One type of grosbeak commonly seen at feeders is the evening grosbeak. These birds are often found near conifer forests and love sunflower seeds. The male has a yellow body with black markings and white wing patches. The male looks similar to the goldfinch but is larger and not as bright. The female evening grosbeak is gray with yellow on its underside.