image of bird, sunflowers and a text saying: what animals eat sunflowers

What Animals Eat Sunflowers?

Written by: Akeem Eletu
Last updated on:

Sunflowers possess tall stalks and specific yellow and black colors to stand out. They serve aesthetic purposes and are also a source of food for many animals. Squirrels, for one, make a nuisance of themselves at the sight of sunflower seeds. Many other animals, including deer, enjoy sunflowers too.

This informative article discusses what animals eat sunflowers and what they eat in sunflowers. You will be surprised at what animals pop out on the list below.

Can Animals Eat Sunflowers?

Yes, they can. While you may find this difficult to believe, it is a fact. Before now, you probably thought only insects eat sunflowers. While some insects like bees, beetles, seed weevils, aphids, etc., eat sunflowers, many animals are attracted to this flower too, when searching for food.

Sunflowers produce seeds that serve as nutritious food for different types of animals. They contain a good amount of fat that animals need to survive the harsh winter.

What Animals Eat Sunflowers?

Note that different animals seem interested in what sunflowers have to offer in terms of nutrition. Below are some of such animals, the parts of sunflowers they prefer, and the reason for their preference.

Chipmunks

Chipmunks love sunflower seeds and will run around in your garden to gather them. Chipmunks are different from squirrels because, unlike squirrels, they hibernate in the winter.

Hibernation is a hypothermic condition when animals become inactive to save energy during cold seasons. The body temperature reduces as well as heart rate and metabolism breathing. This is the biological makeup of some animals to save energy during cold seasons when food is scarce and energy is low.

Hence, chipmunks gather a lot of sunflower seeds and store them in burrows. They get sunflower seeds by climbing the plants.

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Birds

The most common animals that eat sunflowers are birds. Songbirds like sparrows and cardinals prefer to eat the seeds of sunflowers. What they do is fly to gardens and bird feeders to satisfy their hunger for sunflower seeds. 

Also, other raptors and various types of hawks will hang around in your garden or feeder to feast on sunflowers unapologetically. Some birds prefer dried sunflowers, and they won’t go near your sunflowers until they are well dried and ready to pick. 

Note that not all birds eat sunflowers, but some don’t mind. 

Black oil sunflowers are another species of sunflowers birds like most. They will regularly visit your garden to eat black oil sunflower seeds. 

Some birds that love sunflowers include Chickadees, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Cardinals, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Juncos, Grackles, House Sparrows, Starlings, and House Finch.

Garden Mice, Voles, and Rats

Garden mice and voles are guilty of eating tons of sunflower seeds in the garden. These animals have naughty nature. They don’t only climb the plants to feast on sunflower seeds but also dig the new seeds you plant out of the ground too. Hence, they leave you with nothing but a ruined sunflower garden.

Sunflowers seedlings will sprout a few weeks after planting them in your garden. If you don’t see any germination after the stipulated time, know that mice and voles might have robbed you of your seeds.

You control the situation with predators like cats in the garden or use a scarecrow to keep them out of your garden.

Deer

image of 2 deers

It may be shocking to see deer on this list. But deer are herbivores, and sunflowers are one of the plants they consider as food. Sunflowers are a good food source as they produce a high amount of nutrients like fat and protein to deer. Besides the seeds, deer will also eat the leaves of sunflower plants.

Squirrels

Another huge fan of sunflower seeds is a squirrel. Squirrels will keep coming to your bird feeder and garden to feast on sunflower seeds. Squirrels are also great hoarders that store food in advance for when food becomes scarce, especially during winter.

You will often notice them running around, gathering sunflower seeds, and going back into their hollows in the trees to store them. 

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Raccoons

You will not always find a raccoon snooping around for sunflower seeds in your garden. However, they would raid your garden for seeds, nuts, and other plants if they are hungry enough. While they may have very little interest in your sunflowers, they have a very keen interest in the seeds.

Rabbits

Rabbits will ravage a garden for plants like carrots and tomatoes. But they also like sunflowers, sunflower seeds, and stalks. They usually can’t reach the seeds of sunflowers, but this does not deter them. Rabbits will wait patiently and eat the seeds that drop or hijack the seeds off sunflower plants that fall over, which can be the handiwork of other animals that eat sunflowers or the wind.

Insects That Eat Sunflowers

It may interest you to know that insects are animals too. Insects eat the foliage, flowers, and roots of sunflowers. Below are some of the common ones on top of the list.

Grasshoppers

image of grasshoppers

Grasshoppers eat sunflowers but cause minimum damage compared to other insect pests. You can handpick them when the infestation is low. However, chemical control applies to large infestations beyond control.

Moths 

Moths feed on the head and seedlings of sunflowers which can damage the stem and unopened buds of the plant in the process. Natural trapping with pheromones (chemical secreted by animals) or insecticides can control moth infestation in your garden.

Crawlers 

Sunflowers are the perfect food source for crawlers like armyworms, maggots, and caterpillars. These crawlers destroy sunflower plants as they eat their way through the flowers and leaves of the plant. They cause sunflowers to defoliate by making the ripened and bright leaves detach from the stem and fall to the ground.

This list is by means exhaustive as there are other insects that will eat up and ravage sunflowers in your garden whenever they get the chance to do so. 

Final Thought

This illuminating piece has discussed what animals eat sunflowers. The animals, including the insects, are the common animals you need to watch out for to harvest beautiful sunflowers. You don’t want your beautiful yellow and black bloomed flowers to suffer the wrath of some hungry animals.

If you must deter them, it would be best to use a natural means such as employing a predator species or planting companion plants that ward off insects. 

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