All about Sunflowers

Sunflower seeds come from the familiar flowering seed heads of sunflower plants, with the seed developing as the flower dies off at the end of the summer. To grow on a commercial scale, sunflowers require dry and warm growing seasons, and can be grown in Ireland but rarely as a large-scale crop. We associate sunflower fields with the warmer continental European countries where summer temperatures are much higher and more reliable.  Our Sunflowers are sourced in Bulgaria and we buy the top ‘bakery grade’.

Sunflowers in Bulgaria (c. Teodora Whyte)

There are many varieties of cultivated sunflower, however there are just two types that are used for seed for feeding garden birds; striped sunflower and black sunflower seeds. Striped seeds have a harder outer husk than black, which is one of the reasons why black is more popular, because it’s easier for small birds to remove the husk.

Sunflower Hearts are simply sunflower seeds but with the outer husk removed. Or in other words, sunflower hearts are the softer kernel of the seed.

Our Sunflower hearts are only taken from black sunflower seed. This is because the hearts from black sunflower seeds are higher in oil per gram versus striped sunflower, and therefore have a higher calorific value for birds.

Which birds eat Sunflower Hearts?

Sunflower hearts will potentially attract a large number of bird species to your garden, and notably most species of tit and finch, plus soft bill species such as the Blackbird and Dunnock.

Premium Blending with Sunflowers.

Because sunflowers, (hearts or black seeds) are so popular and nutritious for small garden birds, we use them as a core constituent in our range of premium blends: the blends are mixed to attract target species such as Robins, Wrens, Dunnock and wagtails. Check out our best-selling premium blends such as All Seasons (a finch favourite), Full Irish (great for all the Tit family) and Robin and Wren Blend, with added mealworms (a gold star attractant for these birds).  New for the coming season, from September,  we are introducing three new blends: ½ and ½ No Waste, 50/50 Plus and Squirrel Snack Box.. with sunflowers combining with kibbled peanuts, dried mealworms and whole peanuts respectively.

Benefits of Feeding Sunflower Hearts to Birds

We believe Sunflower hearts are almost certainly the single best food you can put out for the birds in your garden, with four good reasons: They are Highly nutritious with very high fat content.  They can and will be eaten by virtually all garden birds, with the only potential limiting factor being how they’re fed – see below on how to feed. This is a key difference to black sunflower seeds, because softbill species such as blackbird can’t remove the husk but can easily eat a sunflower heart. They leave very little waste with just a thin and wispy outer coat of the heart removed by some birds – in particular finches. Lack of waste should be a major reason to opt for sunflower hearts if you’re short on time, because with so little waste there’s far less risk of birds contracting a disease such as salmonella as a result of rotting husks building up on the ground.  Value for money: Sunflower hearts are cheaper than both peanuts and Nyjer seed and have little or no mess or waste.. win, win!

How to feed…

 Hanging seed feeders

Hanging seed feeders with 2, 4 or more feeding ports are ideal for sunflower hearts or seeds. Circular perches will facilitate the finches and Robins whilst tit species may take away a heart to chip at it from a secure wedge nearby or cling to a feeder and eat in situ.

Trays or bird tables

Spreading sunflowers on Trays or bird tables, allows blackbirds, dunnocks and collared dove to easily feed. It may also allow less desirable visitors in which case you will need to monitor the amount of seed you provide and you may need to consider a low roofed table option, to deter larger visitors.

Cage feeders

We have a range of very popular cage feeders which are designed to exclude crows and grey squirrels.

 Sunflowers and Suet

Either black sunflower seeds or Sunflower Hearts are a popular addition to suet mixes, either pre mixed or made from your own suet, melted down and mixed into a high calorie cake which is then chilled.

Storing Sunflower Hearts / Seeds

Keep them dry in a sealed container and in a cool place, there should be no issues of stock going off. Also, they tend to be snapped up very quickly by garden birds which means that the seed is fresh and  used up quickly.

So, do as we do: buy the best Bakery Grade Bulgarian sunflower hearts and seed, stand alone or freshly blended and hand packed to order every week, from our grain store to your hall door.