Feeding birds is a fun way to observe, support and learn about your wild neighbors. Often, though, nuisance birds will chase others away from a feeder, or unwanted visitors like squirrels will move in. One way to keep these invaders at bay is to change the contents of your feeder to something less attractive. In many cases, safflower seeds will do the trick. These small white seeds are high in protein and fat but have a bitter taste that blackbirds, starlings, grackles and squirrels generally don't like. Here are some songbirds that do enjoy safflower seeds.
Cardinals and Jays
Safflower seeds are favorites of cardinals and are typically the No. 1 ingredient in mixes designed to attract these bright red birds. Jays enjoy these seeds too.
Chickadees, house finches, titmice, nuthatches, buntings, and grosbeaks are some of the smaller songbirds that also like safflower seeds.
Many species of woodpecker will eat safflower seeds as well as their preferred foods, such as nuts.
Mourning doves, named for their soft, sad-sounding call, are common backyard visitors; they like safflower seeds, too.
Change an established feeder to safflower seed gradually. If squirrels or nuisance birds are problematic, don't mix with other, more desirable foods. Use safflower seed only. You may need to provide "critter food" in a separate feeder away from the birds' food to distract squirrels if they are still bothersome.
Article Written By Peggy Hansen
Peggy Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from UC San Diego, Doctor of Medicine from UCLA, and completed postgraduate training at Stanford, Duke and Harvard. An award-winning writer and photographer, her work has been featured in Catnip, Herbalgram, Porter Gulch Review, and many online pieces. She's also a commentator for KQED-FM