A Birder’s Guide to Safflower Seeds

A Birder’s Guide to Safflower Seeds

Are you familiar with the bright, beautiful orange flower that is the safflower? If so, you’re probably aware of its gorgeous hue and the rich flavor safflower oil provides in cooking. But what you may not know is that safflower seeds are also cultivated as precious bird food!  

The safflower plant (Carthamus tinctorius) is grown as a crop in many areas throughout the world, including parts of the United States, Canada, India, Mexico, Ethiopia, China, Argentina, and Iran. The gorgeous color and flavorful oil aside, safflower is also an important wild bird feed for various songbirds.

Safflower seeds are small but come with a hard shell that some birds (and pets) find difficult to crack open. This type of wild bird seed is an annual species in the same plant family as the sunflower, which makes it an easy pairing when putting together wild bird feed mixes. The seed itself is white and angular. Size-wise, it’s slightly larger than a popcorn kernel but just smaller than a black oil sunflower seed with a similarly tapered shape. 

Valley Farms Safflower Seed Wild Bird Food $16.50, available for purchase online at ValleyFarms.com

Which Birds like Safflower Seeds?

Safflower seeds aren’t for everyone - in fact, they’re often not even most wild birds’ first choice. Despite being bitter and requiring some work, however, these seeds are a vital part of several birds’ diets. Several types of wild birds that eat safflower seeds include:



Chickadees (especially Black-capped chickadees)





Indigo buntings

Finches (particularly House finches and Purple finches)

House sparrows


So why do birds eat safflower seeds? The nutritional content is pretty impressive. Safflower seeds are so good for birds because of their strong nutritional profile. With 38% fat, 16% protein, and 34% carbohydrates, these seeds provide birds with an exceptional source of energy. 

How do Birds Eat Safflower Seeds?

It doesn’t matter that safflower seeds are so small in size; many birds still tend to crack them open to eat them so they can access the seed’s inner meat. Every once in a while, however, you’ll find a bird (like doves) that eats the safflower seed whole.

A Favorite Amongst Birders

Why do birders like filling their bird feeders with safflower seed? Arguably the best thing about safflower isn’t even the seed itself; it’s that squirrels don’t like to eat the seeds! Squirrels, grackles (namely blackbirds), starlings, and most other pesky animals steer clear of safflower seeds due to their bitter taste and exceptionally hard shells. Filling your birdfeeder with safflower seeds, or even putting a wild bird feed mix with safflower seeds in it into your feeder is a great way to deter bully birds from dominating your backyard. 

Another advantage of safflower seeds for birders is that this is a no-mess bird food. Even the birds that crack open the shells and leave the husks on the ground don’t leave behind the same clutter that would ensue from sunflower seeds. Safflower husks easily blow away in the wind, making them ideal for birders looking to keep their backyards neat and tidy.


What to Know About Feeding Birds Safflower Seeds

Follow these bird feeding tips if you’re new to bringing safflower to your backyard bird feeders: 

1) Give it time. Even the birds that are known for eating safflower seeds, like cardinals, may take some time to get accustomed to eating it on a regular basis. 

2) Ease safflower seeds into a wild bird seed mix. Consider this as a tip from one bird-feeding family to another: mix safflower in with other wild bird feed or use a pre-made bird seed blend with safflower, like the Valley Farms® Cardinal Mix Wild Bird Food, which includes striped and black oil sunflower seed, buckwheat, and of course safflower seed.  Let the birds get used to eating safflower seeds before you fill the whole bird feeder with them. 

3) The best type of bird feeder for safflower seeds is a large hopper feeder, tube feeder, or platform feeder. If you're looking to attract cardinals, we suggest a large hopper or a platform feeder over a tube feeder, as they need more space. It’s also fine to scatter the seeds on the ground near shrubs and sheltered areas for ground-feeders.


Valley Farms Cardinal Mix Wild Bird Food $13.75

Available in 3lb or 10lb quantities

Ingredients: Striped Sunflower, Black Oil Sunflower, BuckWheat, Safflower Seed

Crude Protein: 15% min.

Crude Fat: 35% min.  

Crude Fiber: 25% max.

Vacuum Cleaned for minimal dust residue.

Ready to experiment with safflower seed? Buy fresh and clean safflower seeds from yours truly. Find it in some of our specialty wild bird seed mixes or get straight safflower seed. Orders yours today!

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1 comment

Amazing that birds get enough nutrition in the seed offered, and marketed as “treats” rather than “diet.”
All God’s creatures need health & nutrition for a healthy world. Humans alone can focus on providing that, affordably, and cost efficiently. Conservation preservationists, or destroyers?…….for money!


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