What is Black Oil Sunflower Seed?

Learn all about the black oil from sunflower seeds including the benefits of the seed and oil, how it fits into poultry and feeds and garden care.

Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil adorned with sunflowers on a wooden table.

If you’ve ever owned a bird, if you enjoy feeding birds or if you’re simply a fan of bird culture in any way, chances are pretty high that you’ve already heard of black oil sunflower seeds.

This is the most popular bird seed out there, attracting many different species of birds. If you fill your garden bird feeder with black oil sunflower seed, you’ll see lots of different feathered friends do by for a visit. But what is black oil sunflower seed and besides being delicious to birds, what else does it do?

Related: Types of Sunflowers | Types of Nuts | Types of Coconut Oil

Sunflowers and Seeds

You’ve probably eaten sunflower seeds before, or you’ve seen someone else eating them. The most common kind of sunflower seed you purchase for eating have grayish-black outer shells that are very easy to crack with small, grayish kernels inside. These are known as striped sunflower seeds because the shells are sort of mottled, almost striped. But there are many other types of sunflower seed, including black oil sunflower seeds.

A bunch of sunflower seeds adorned with a sunflower on a dark surface.

All sunflower seeds come from the common sunflower plant, the Helianthus annuus. Sunflowers come in a huge variety of sizes and colors. But all the seeds that are commercially available come from the standard sunflower, the one you probably picture when you think of sunflowers.  This is a tall, beautiful flower with large, yellow blossoms with big, brown seed heads at the center.

All About Black Oil Sunflower Seed

Black oil sunflower seed has a meatier texture and flavor than a striped sunflower seed. These seeds have a higher oil content than striped sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds have more calories and nutritional value as a result, which makes them highly prized by birds. The shells of these seeds are thin and easy for birds to crack, allowing them to access the prize inside.

Black Oil Sunflower Seed Nutrition

Black oil sunflower seeds are about 28 percent fat and 25 percent fiber. This makes them incredibly filling. These seeds also have 15 percent protein, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and E. They also contain calcium. In short, black oil sunflower seeds are highly nutritious. The seeds are very nourishing and filling to birds, animals that burn up a lot of energy while flying. Black oil sunflower seeds are used to make sunflower oil because they have such a high natural oil content.

Birds Who Love Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

A hummingbird feeding on a sunflower.

If you’re a bird lover of any kind, stock up on black iol sunflower seeds! These seeds attract a huge variety of backyard birds. The list includes large grosbeak species, including northern cardinals, along with Eurasian collared-doves, like mourning doves. Titmice, including the tufted titmouse, love these seeds.

Black oil sunflower seeds will attract types of thrush, jay, chickadee, sparrows, nuthatch, woodpecker, grackle, bushtit, magpie, finch, and all types of goldfinches. Many smaller birds and songbirds flock to sunflower seeds (pun intended). If you’re a wild bird watcher, this should be your seed of choice.

That’s just some of the birds that fly who gobble up these seeds. If black oil sunflower seeds fall to the ground, they will be gobbled up by ground feeding birds like grouse, pheasants, turkeys, and quail.

Because seed-eating birds crack the shells and discard them to eat the kernels inside, there will be a mess. If you put black oils sunflower seeds in your bird feeders, you will see lots of discarded hulls all around the base of the feeders.

These old shells can be damaging to grass and landscaping, so this debris must be cleaned up relatively quickly. You can avoid this mess by purchasing hulled sunflower seeds that have already been de-shelled as bird food instead. Sunflower chips also work just as well for attracting and feeding birds.

A chicken feeding on a sunflower.

Black oil sunflower seeds also make an excellent chicken feed ingredient. Because of the high-fat content, the seeds make chicken feathers shinier and can even increase egg production in hens. In meat birds, it promotes weight gain. These seeds also make the meat of birds and the eggs from hens even healthier because black oil sunflower seeds are so packed with nutrients.

In fact, black oil sunflower seeds can be added to feed given to cattle and horses, as well as being an excellent wild bird food. Black oil sunflower seeds mixed with nettle leaf, flaxseed, and herbs help increase milk production in cattle. In horses, it helps give horses a shinier coat, mane, and tail.

The Dark Side of Sunflower Seeds

Black oil sunflower seeds attract a lot of birds, even ground-dwelling birds. They’re packed with nutrition and they come from pretty, cheerful sunflowers. These are recognizable blossoms that are colorful and pretty.

But there’s a problem: squirrels also love black oil sunflower seeds. They can be cute creatures but squirrels are actually pests. They’ll eat your garden plants, dig around in your landscaping areas, generally taunt your pets. As much as these seeds attract birds, they also attract squirrels. Small rodents also love the seeds.

Make Your Own

You don’t have to purchase black oil sunflower seeds from pet stores that carry birdseed. You can always grow your own sunflowers to harvest the seeds. These flowers are very easy to grow. So easy to grow, in fact, you can plant bird seeds and grow sunflowers that produce more seeds. Sunflower seeds should be about 2 inches deep and about a foot apart.

A close look at a bunch of sunflower seeds and its oil.

These flowers need loose soil and full sunlight in order to grow healthy and strong. Sunflowers should be planted in spring at the earliest. You can plant several sunflower seeds a few weeks apart so you have a seed supply that keeps on producing.

Sunflowers will thrive in all types of soil and they grow well in containers. They don’t need a lot of fertilizer to grow. In fact, too much fertilizer will actually damage sunflower seeds. While the seeds are growing, water them twice a day. Once the seeds have taken root and started to sprout. After that, sunflowers can be watered every other day.

Weed the sunflowers until they are well established. Once they are, weeds won’t be a problem anymore. You may need to use stakes to support your sunflowers once they grow taller than three feet. Sunflowers can topple over in the high wind, intense storms, and even when their own seeds get too heavy.

The seeds of the flower become ripe in the fall. When seeds are ripe enough to be eaten, the heads of the seeds turn slightly downward. The inner flowers of the sunflower plant also shrivel. Harvest seeds by cutting the flower heads off the stalks. Allow the heads to dry completely. Now, rub your hands over the seeds to gently shake them loose from the plant.

Store your black oil sunflower seeds in a cool, dry place if you aren’t going to put them all out at once.

If you want to not just feed the birds but feed them really well, black oil sunflower seeds are exactly what you need.

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