Jan 15, 2015 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2015

How Much Seed in a Pound of Seed?

Bird seed is the hamburger of the bird-feeding world. The picture above shows Nyjer/Thistle seed, peanuts, millet, and cracked corn.
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Hulled sunflower seed (which means "without hulls") is often sold as sunflower chips, sunflower hearts, or no-mess sunflower seeds. It is very convenient, and attracts a wide variety of species to your feeder, but is pricy compared with black-oil sunflower seeds in the shell.

Or is it?

An apples-to-apples comparison of the price of a T-bone steak to a filet requires you to discount the weight of the bone and consider only the cost of the meat. Blackoil sunflower seed is 35 to 45 percent hull—inedible to birds. That means when you buy a 50-pound bag of it, you're buying roughly 30 pounds of bird food and 20 pounds of waste. Consider that next time you're shopping for birdseed. A fair comparison would be a 50 pound bag of standard sunflower seeds to a 30 pound bag of sunflower hearts. Odds are, hulled sunflower seeds will still be more expensive than in-the-shell seeds. But you won't have a mess to clean up under your feeders. What's that worth to you?

Also consider that safflower seed, while typically much more expensive than sunflower, has a smaller hull, so less of its weight is waste. Squirrels and starlings don't like safflower seed, so if mammalian marauders or birds you don't like are eating you out of house, home, and black-oil sunflower seeds, consider a switch to safflower. A gradual switch, mixing the two seeds, is recommended.

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  • I have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020