11 Birds That Like Eating Sunflower Seed (With Photos)

Sunflower seed is my favorite food to offer birds at my feeders. No other bird seed will draw in the widest variety of birds compared to it.

I believe it’s the best bird seed you can buy, especially black oil sunflower seed if you’re new to bird feeding. It has a thin shell that many birds can get into and high fat and protein content for them.

Sunflower seed is relatively cheap compared to most other bird seed. The only downside are the shell remnants left below your feeder. An easy solution to this problem is to buy sunflower chips.

If you’re having trouble with black birds swarming your feeders, you can also buy striped sunflower seed. This seed has a tougher shell to break into. So, it’s harder for pest birds to eat. This is a great option for Cardinals and Blue Jays.

Once you put out sunflower seed in a feeder, here are birds to keep your eyes peeled for.

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1. Northern Cardinals

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The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of eight states.

Northern Cardinals will gobble up sunflower seed at a bird feeder. It’s the top thing they go for at my station!

Be sure to have a feeder that’s sturdy and with a large enough perch to support Cardinals. They’re bigger than other songbirds like Chickadees and Finches.

Related Content: 5 Proven Ways to Attract Cardinals to a Feeder

2. Black-Capped Chickadees

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Black-Capped Chickadees love eating sunflower seeds

Chickadees are common visitors at bird feeding stations across the north-central portion of North America. Watch for them to snag a sunflower seed to cache in a nearby tree for later. It’s fun!

Related Content: 5 Tips to Attract Chickadees to Your Bird Feeder

3. Rose Breasted Grosbeak

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I had my first Grosbeak visit my feeders for sunflower seeds this spring.

Rose Breasted Grosbeaks are likely to visit feeders for sunflower seed in the late spring during their migration when they need extra energy.

Have native berry plants and shrubs in your yard for another chance to attract these birds.

4. House Finches

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House Finches are bird feeder explorers.

House Finches love eating black oil sunflower seed and sunflower chips at bird feeders of all different types and sizes.

They’re often the first visitors at new bird feeders and are common and widespread across much of the United States.

5. Tufted Titmouse

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Common feeder visitors across the eastern United States, Tufted Titmice love to snatch up sunflower seed. Beyond feeders, they also eat insects, snails, spiders, and berries (Perky Pet).

Tufted Titmice are often in flocks with Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers (Cornell).

6. White Breasted Nuthatch

A White Breasted Nuthatch grabbing some black oil sunflower seed.
White Breasted Nuthatches are one of my regular feeder visitors.

White Breasted Nuthatches love sunflower seed and peanuts at bird feeders. They’ll visit just about any bird feeder.

They’re acrobatic birds. Watch as they hang sideways or upside down as they scale your feeders!

7. American Goldfinch (prefer sunflower chips)

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The bright yellow of an American Goldfinch is one of my favorite sights at my feeder in the spring and summer.

American Goldfinches don’t have strong enough beaks to break through black oil or stripped sunflower seed. But, they love eating sunflower chips!

Goldfinches are tiny birds that like tube feeders. American Goldfinches will also eat from larger platform and hopper feeders, but I find that they are often crowded out by bigger birds. Getting a quality tube feeder gives them a perch to sit on with less traffic.

In the spring and summer, male Goldfinches are bright yellow. Keep your eyes peeled for their drabber brown-olive color in the winter.

8. Red Bellied Woodpecker

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In addition to sunflower seed, I also reccomend providing suet for Woodpeckers

Red Bellied Woodpeckers top pick is suet at bird feeders, but they’ll gladly scoop up sunflower seeds from a tray or hopper feeder.

9. Pine Siskins

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You can also attract Pine Siskins with thistle seed.

Like Goldfinches, Pine Siskin love sunflower chips in tube feeders.

They can be harder to pick out among House Finches or Goldfinches. Look for the hint of yellow in their wings.

10. Mourning Doves (prefer sunflower chips)

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Common and abundant across the U.S.

Mourning Doves will gladly eat sunflower chips from the ground or in a tray bird feeder. They’re also partial to white millet and safflower seed.

Related Content: How to Attract Mourning Doves to Your Yard: Everything You Need to Know

11. Blue Jays

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Blue Jays will gladly take any form of sunflower seed from a bird feeder. Blue Jays are also fairly large feeder birds. So, you’ll want to have a hopper or tray feeder to accommodate them.

Also, I find the idea that Blue Jays are bully birds at feeders to be overblown. In my experience, they’ve been a fun addition to my feeders and usually take a few seeds to go.