Striped sunflowers, large stripe sunflowers for wild bird bird seed, wild bird feeding

Striped sunflower seed, sometimes called "stripers," are larger than black oil sunflower seeds and have a thicker shell. Their larger size and thicker shell make them harder to eat for small birds, but larger birds like cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, and grosbeaks have no problem breaking through to the delectable nutmeat inside. And although most people would consider chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches to be "small" birds, they also can easily open the shells of striped sunflower seeds.

large stripe sunflowersThe birds have competition, however – us! Striped sunflower seeds are the seeds the snack industry cultivate and roast that you see on the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere. They are nutritional for the birds and us, containing protein, carbohydrates, fat (but a "good fat" for us), and have a high oil content. In addition, they contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin E. No wonder we both love them!

Due to the popularity of striped sunflower seeds as snacks for humans, the crops are screened so that the largest seeds ultimately wind up in our pantries instead of bird feeders. The upside of this screening process is that the smaller striped sunflower seeds that are left over and sold as wild bird food are the smallest seeds from the entire harvest, making them even easier for more species of birds to be able to enjoy.

Striped sunflower seeds are a wonderful way to distract larger birds – like grackles – away from bird feeders so that smaller birds have a better chance of eating with less competition, especially when they are offered on an open platform feeder. As an added bonus, they make an inexpensive treat to offer squirrels so that you can attract them away from feeders as well.

Yes, the shells are larger than the shells of black oil sunflower seeds and have to be cleaned up in the same way (another incentive to consider sunflower hearts and kernels!), but the meat-to-shell ratio is not as different as you might think. The weight of the shells in a bag of black oil sunflower seeds is approximately 35-45%; the weight of striped sunflower seed shells is approximately 40-50%, a difference of only 5-15%. When you consider the benefits of feeding striped sunflower seeds to both larger species of birds and to squirrels – less money, more distraction and less competition at feeders – that small percentage of difference seems well worth its weight in gold.

Try it – you'll like it, and so will your birds!

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— written by Carla Davis; The Wild Bird Lady  (c) 2004 eBirdseed.com - Written permission required for use of images/text on these pages.


Carla Davis is a Habitat Consultant residing on Long Island, New York, where she gives seminars on how to develop Backyard Bird Habitats through bird feeding and native gardening at Garden Centers, Garden Clubs, Nature Centers, Schools, and Audubon Chapters. She has taught portions of the Master Birding Course for Cornell Cooperative Extension, Suffolk County, New York, and her property has been designated as an Official Backyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.  She is a contributing writer to Birding Business magazine and The Bird's-Eye reView, the newsletter of the former National Bird-Feeding Society, where she served as a member of the Board of Directors.