I’ll be the first to admit that I am now a bird nerd. And not that I didn’t appreciate birds before, but as soon as I installed a bird bath and a bird feeder, the game changed. Now I happily sit and watch the avian action, admire the feathers and frolics, and try to identify the different visitors. (I geek out with Sibley’s Backyard Birds of Northern California guide). I have also experimented with different store-bought bird food, noticing what made a total mess, what the birds seemed to devour, and what wasn’t cost-effective. This seed journey has led me to the almighty sunflower seed—and then ultimately to the no-waste cracked sunflower seed.
What are cracked sunflower seeds?
These are sunflower seeds (either black oil or white striped) that have the hard, inedible shells removed, so it’s just pure meaty goodness that has been broken into smaller bits. Cracked sunflower seeds are also known as sunflower chips. You can also find whole, hulled sunflowers seeds but I like the cracked ones because the tiny pieces are easier for the small birds to eat. Finches, for example, aren’t equipped with large powerful bills to open tough hulls.
What birds like them?
Most birds seem to love this stuff. The birds that I see visit my filled feeder are goldfinches, pine siskins, sparrows, western scrub jays, oak titmouses (titmice?), and house finches. This is the selection of visitors at my Northern California garden, but elsewhere you can expect birds such as Carolina wrens, pine grosbeaks, white-throated sparrows, and a variety of woodpeckers.
Why are these sunflower seeds better?
Like I mentioned, not only does this seed attract a variety of birds, but there isn’t all the waste and mess associated with other bird food mixes that add filler food like milo and millet (a lot of birds toss millet aside) or incorporate sunflower seeds with the shells on that eventually end up scattered below the feeder. I was never fond of sprouts growing below my feeder from those other bird food mixes. In addition, I want to attract birds, not rats. Whatever little bits of sunflower seeds that fall to the ground are immediately devoured by other birds.
Another benefit to cracked sunflower seeds is that sunflower seeds, in general, are a superior source of fiber, fat, protein and vitamins, plus because they are shelled, the birds spend less energy trying to remove the hulls. This is especially important in the winter when energy is at a premium for our winged friends.
Will cracked sunflower seeds attract squirrels?
You betcha. However, I am one of those pro squirrel people who appreciate their acrobatics, their spazzy behavior and the fact that they seem to take turns eating with the little birds.
Downsides to cracked sunflower seeds?
Well, as expected with most premium items, these seeds are more expensive than whole seeds due to the labor involved removing the shells. However, most bird seed is sold by weight—this way, at least you are not paying for the inedible shells. Also, without their shells, these seeds unfortunately are more vulnerable to heat and moisture and spoil quickly. This means open platform feeders are not advised. I use a tube feeder and clean it regularly to remove sticky and clumped up seeds. But honestly, the extra work and money is worth it.
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