Hulled Sunflower Kernals - Wild Bird Food

Hulled Sunflower Kernals - Wild Bird Food

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Hulled Sunflower Seeds

All sunflower seeds are from the sunflower plant, Helianthus annus, and hulled seeds are the same as striped or black oil sunflower seeds, just without the hard, inedible shell. Also called sunflower hearts or cracked sunflower seeds, these seeds are a superior source of fat, fiber, protein, and vitamins, providing excellent nutrition for all backyard birds. In addition to whole hulled sunflower seeds, these seeds are often available in chips or pieces: broken or semi-crushed seeds that are even easier for small birds to eat. Though hulled seeds are the same nutritionally as any other sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower has several additional benefits that sunflower seeds in the shell do not have, such as:

  • No wasted energy removing the hull, making this a more fuel-efficient seed for winter bird feeding
  • No discarded hulls to clean up under bird feeders or around feeding areas
  • Easier for small birds such as finches to eat, as their bills are not as powerful for opening thick hulls
  • Sprouting of discarded or spilled seeds is very rare

The most obvious disadvantage of hulled sunflower seeds is their price, and they are often more expensive than whole seeds because of the labor necessary to remove the shells; however, if you look at the price in more detail, birdseed is typically sold by weight, and by purchasing hulled seeds, you are not paying for the weight of shells that will not be eaten. The convenience of this no-waste seed and the other benefits it provides more than compensate for the higher cost.

Birds That Eat Sunflower Seeds

Just as any sunflower seed is popular with a wide range of bird species, there are dozens of species that will happily eat hulled sunflower seeds. Birds that regularly feast on hulled sunflower hearts or chips include:

American goldfinches
Black-capped chickadees
Black-headed grosbeaks
Carolina wrens
Downy woodpeckers
Hairy woodpeckers
House finches
Mourning doves
Pine grosbeaks
Pine siskins
Red-bellied woodpeckers
Red-breasted nuthatches
Tufted titmice
White-breasted nuthatches
White-throated sparrows

This list is by no means complete; most birds that will visit feeders will at least sample hulled sunflower seeds, and once they realize how easy the seeds are to eat, they may quickly empty feeders and return eagerly whenever the feeders are refilled.

How to Feed
Because hulled sunflower seeds are more expensive, it is best to offer them in feeders that have some protection from bully birds or voracious eaters, and many birders prefer not to offer these pricey seeds in open platform feeders. Large hopper feeders are ideal, but the feeders should be covered to protect the seed from moisture since without their shells these seeds can spoil more quickly than other types of sunflower seeds. Tube feeders with large feeding ports can also accommodate hulled sunflower seeds and may be a better option for yards with squirrels, as the tube feeders are more difficult for these pesky critters to access. Additional baffles and other techniques to make feeders squirrel-resistant can be useful when offering hulled sunflower seeds to ensure the seeds go to the birds rather than to other hungry wildlife.

Hulled sunflower seeds naturally have an oilier surface than seeds in the shell, and can begin to spoil more quickly in very hot temperatures. The oil can also accumulate on feeders, necessitating regular checks to ensure the seed is flowing freely to feeding ports and has not become clumped or sticky. More frequent cleanings may also be necessary for feeders where hulled seeds are offered exclusively.

Hulled sunflower seeds are a nutritious, convenient food to offer birds, and can make bird feeding easier for birders who prefer low-maintenance foods for birds that do not leave piles of discarded hulls behind. J