Do squirrels eat safflower seeds?

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

I bought a new feeder that is not squirrel proof because I was going to be filling it with safflower seed, which I was assured that squirrels do not eat. The salesperson at Wildbirds Unlimited aslo told me that the squirrels would need to try it before leaving it alone. After a week, I am still finding squirrels hanging on the feeder. I have had to refill the feeder, and shuddered to think of how much seed the squirrels took. Now, I'm wondering if it is in fact true - do squirrels eat safflower seeds?

Thumbnail by pennefeather
Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

Mine don't like it. They do climb into the platform tray, but after a few tastes they leave it because it is too bitter for them.

Have you noticed them eating at all or just hanging?

State of..., MA(Zone 6a)

I switched to safflower to keep the squirrels away and darned if it didn't work. They never go near it. I have sunflower in a squirrel proof feeder, one of those that is a feeder in a cage model. Darned if they didn't figure a way to get at it. They hang from the top by their back feet and grab the bottom of it and shake it until seed falls out and they catch it. At least they can't eat the whole feeder very quickly. With safflower, even in an open feeder, no problems. Plus, many of the birds love the safflower.

Beachwood, NJ(Zone 6b)

My squirrels have learned to like safflower seed. I only put it out late on the platform feeders for the cardinals to enjoy. GM

Beachwood, NJ(Zone 6b)

At first they would not bother with the safflower seed. After a few weeks, they ate it all from my platform feeders. GM

Marlton, NJ

I agree. If that all there is around they'll eat it.

Putnam County, IN(Zone 5b)

MIne don't eat it...but may very well be that there are other things available to them. If an animal is hungry enough I imagine they will eat most anything.

Mid-Hudson Valley, NY(Zone 5b)

I switched to safflower seed in my NoNo feeders adding capsicum but the squirrels are still visiting. The birds don't seem to mind the change, and when the squirrels are gone, it's covered with birds. There is also a seed mix including sunflower seeds available but the feeder is harder to eat from so they do seem to focus on the NoNo feeder despite my switch to safflower.

Pittsburgh, PA(Zone 5b)

What I did was put only safflower in the feeder that's easiest for them to get into, and mixed seed in the moderately squirrelproof one. The squirrels left me alone. I think perhaps they found something they like better at some neighbor's house.

I had forgotten all about them until a friend gave me a giant bag of feed with sunflower seed in it for free. The squirrels are back! As soon as I need to buy new feed, I'm going back to my original plan.

Another option I've heard of is to put a separate feeder just for the squirrels with stuff they love in it. Then they'll supposedly go there instead of to the safflowers. But besides the fact that that sounds too expensive to me, I prefer to "deter" rather than bait whatever pest I'm dealing with! If I call them to me, they'll get used to coming! If their feeder ran out, they'd be used to getting a meal in my yard and go for whatever they could find, I'd think.

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

Two weeks ago, I cleaned my squirrelbuster feeders, and tightened the weight limit on them. I think that when I originally set them up, I didn't realize that the birds I wanted to attract were so light weight . Now that it is much more difficult for the squirrels to get to the sunflower seed, they seem to be desperate for something. Twice, my husband had to chase them out of the garage, where they were trying to get into my seed. Most of the seed is stored in a metal can, but I had some extra that was in a shopping bag - that was ripped to shreds by them.

I looked at the safflower feeder today, and there is alot of seed on the ground. It think that I will give it another couple of weeks. If the squirrels continue to bother this one, I may have to come up with another idea. I can't switch to sunflower, because I would be overrun.

Saint Paul, MN

Yes, they eat safflower in the winter. In fact, they enjoy sitting in the feeder and eating it in handfuls. They do not eat it in the summer.

Upper Darby, PA(Zone 6b)

I have always been told squirrels do not eat safflower seeds. I have pictures to show they do. It is summer here in Northern Pa. I feed the squirrels every evening, but they are now raiding my Cardinal feeder! It is an open feeder gazebo style that someone gave me. I was reluctant to use it as it is low to the ground with no squirrel baffle. I thought the safflower seed was a great bet to keep them off. I have other feeders with all sorts of seed and a baffle. We have nut and fruit trees here on the property and lots of land for the squirrels to forage for all they want to eat. Now they are a permanent resident at the safflower feeder. They squeeze their fat little bodies into the opening and just sit there for hours eating unless I send them away. The sad Cardinals and other birds come to find just empty shells.The only way squirrels will not eat any seed is if they cannot get into a feeder. Feeding them does not help either. There are always more squirrels that want to feed then the more aggressive relatives will allow. As a funny side note, the wild rabbits sit below the squirrel proof feeder while birds throw out whatever seed they do not want. The rabbits and mourning doves eat what is on the ground.

Bear Creek, NC


HI, I make bird seed mixes at my business.
Squirrels will eat safflower seeds but not as predominantly as black oil sunflower seeds or large grey strip sunflowers seeds. We study what wild birds eat here as a necessary part of our formulation process and we study the squirrels too.
There are a few humane ways to reduce squirrels from raiding your feeders.

1. Purchase a squirrels proof feeder as was suggested.
2. Build a diversionary feeder for the squirrels with foods they like better.
3. Feed your wild birds very small birdseed, which works very well and we make that.

If you were to place shelled peanuts on a wooden board and black oil sunflower seeds beside it, 80% of the time the squirrels will go for the Black Oil Sunflower seeds.

There is something very interesting about squirrel feeding behavior. Probably you have noticed that when squirrels eat something they always hold it in there paws. Either that or they like to pray a lot :) This is an important animal feeding characteristic that can help you reduce squirrel raiding. Think about the kinds of birds that you feed for a moment. They are generally small birds and small birds enjoy tiny seeds even if larger seeds are reduced to a tiny size. Squirrels don't prefer tiny seeds because they can't hold it in their paws; their natural instinct. Cardinals don't care if their Black Oil Sunflower or sunflower seeds are hulled or large or tiny as long as it is present in the seed mix they eat.

So what you can do is two things:

1. Build a feeder for the squirrels in a different location nearer to where they live than where you feed your birds, and use larger food the squirrels will go for but not peanuts. Squirrels like Black Oil Sunflower seeds, and larger sunflower seeds mainly. They also eat corn.

2. Feed the wild birds you like to feed tiny seeds, Millet, Flax seed, Canary grass seed, Niger seed, and broken down, (Chopped hulled), black oil sunflower seeds.

If you enjoy feeding woodpeckers, they eat peanuts predominantly. It might be a good idea to make a feeder especially for them too.

If your having a problem with too many doves, which honestly are worse than the squirrels in my opinion in regard to monopolizing a feeding area. Buy a bird seed mix containing a lot of Milo seed and cracked corn and distribute it on the ground in some a area of your property regularly because they are ground feeders and prefer to eat on the ground. Like most game birds they enjoy Milo seed and cracked corn which is cheaper.

Our small wild bird mix is designed to deter squirrels and it works in our studies. They will walk away from it to go eat something larger they can hold in their paws.
There very religious you know :)

Mandeville, LA(Zone 8b)

Thank you Chrisseedguy, that was very informative.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

My Squirrels don't eat safflower seed, but I give them some of their own sunflower seed and whole corn and occasional nuts.

Where and how do you hang your feeders?? All our feeders hang on tall, heavy-duty shepherd's hooks, each has 4 hooks. My husband made large "cone-shaped" squirrel baffles quite a few years ago from galvanized steel. At first the squirrels tried to climb past them, but found they couldn't. Eventually they stopped even trying. Now they're just happy as can be with the food I put out for them plus what falls from the feeders (they also find other food around the yard).

I always put some food on the ground under the feeders for the squirrels. That way the they know to hang out there and catch additional food that the birds'd be surprised how much gets dropped. It's a win, win situation for me as less gets wasted.

Squirrel baffles need to be high enough so the squirrels can't leap over them. The bottoms of ours are at least 40" off the ground and the tops are about 51". Make sure the feeders are also high enough so the squirrels can't jump up to them, otherwise a baffle is useless. You don't need to use shepherds hooks. We just happened to find some really heavy-duty ones at a reasonable price. They've been in the ground 'year round for a long time and haven't budged, but you could use wooden posts or other types of poles.

If you hang your feeders from trees, you can hang a baffle above the feeder. One type is shaped kind of like an umbrella, but tilts when the squirrel steps onto it so it can't get its footing and slides off, although most of my experience has been with the ones hanging on standing poles or shepherd's hooks. Another reason why I like hanging multiple feeders together is one baffle covers more feeders.

I hang suet cages there as well. That way my Woodpeckers get the suet they love and also sunflower seed which they love to peck out of my mesh-type feeders. They don't often use any of the other types of feeders.

Mandeville, LA(Zone 8b)

I had a chronic possum problem with a hanging caged suet feeder. I finally purchased a clear, plexiglass cone which hung above the feeder. It stops possums and squirrels cold.

Stafford County, VA

Quote from nanny_56 :
... If an animal is hungry enough I imagine they will eat most anything.

The squirrels here actually eat meal worms (alive or dead), when the bluebirds let them.

This message was edited Sep 1, 2012 8:45 PM

Thumbnail by 2dCousinDave Thumbnail by 2dCousinDave Thumbnail by 2dCousinDave
PERTH, Australia

Fantastic action sequence there, Dave.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Totally love it, Dave!! Thanks for sharing those pics. They don't even need captions!

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