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 experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018