Squirrels are known for climbing and leaping off everything in sight with a level of grace and agility we can only dream of, and getting into things not intended for them so efficiently they cause nightmares. Squirrels are notorious for raiding bird feeders of their tasty treats despite our best efforts to keep them out.
It’s natural to wonder if they’ll eat the safflower seeds that constitute such a large percentage of the birdseed mixes sold across the country.
Do Squirrels Eat Safflower Seeds?
Yes, squirrels can eat safflower seeds. However, they typically don’t enjoy them very much because safflower seeds taste incredibly bitter to squirrels. This bitterness is a big part of why standard birdseed mixes contain so many safflower kernels. The bitter taste discourages squirrels from eating everything in the feeder, so there’s always something left for smaller, less aggressive eaters.
To better understand why squirrels don’t like safflower seeds, you must first understand what it is.
What Are Safflower Seeds?
Safflower seeds are harvested from the safflower plant (Carthamus tinctorius), a thistle-like flower with yellow and bright orange flowers.
It is an annual flower that grows best in warm climates. If squirrels are regularly eating your plants, you may want to consider growing Saffire plants, as they won’t eat them.
The seeds resemble sunflower seeds (which squirrels love), but safflower seeds are shiny and angular in appearance, containing 45% hull and 55% kernel.
They are about 6-9 mm in length and are beige, white with grey, or brown with black stripes. (source)
Safflower vs. Sunflower Seeds
When mixed with regular birdseed, it can be hard to distinguish between the two seeds. Both seeds are high in fiber, fat, and protein.
According to Feedipedia, safflower seeds contain 38% fat, while sunflower seeds contain 70% fat. Both birds and squirrels most often prefer sunflower seeds.
Based on the nutritional information on both, sunflower seeds have a complete amino acid profile. Like us, squirrels require a well-balanced diet that provides them with essential nutrients and vitamins.
Why Squirrels Don’t Eat Safflower Seeds
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders that will eat virtually any type of food. Like us, there are some foods they avoid because of the taste. However, it’s not unusual to hear stories about squirrels eating safflower seeds.
These wild critters have survived in the wild for over 150 million years. They have learned to survive by adjusting their diets and taste buds according to their environment’s food sources. (source)
The seeds are not toxic to squirrels, but they don’t appreciate the bitter taste. However, if squirrels can’t find any other food source, they will always eat what is available, including safflower seeds.
There are two obvious reasons why you’d wonder if squirrels eat safflower seeds. The first is because you want to feed them. The second reason pertains to keeping them from eating the birdseed you intended to provide your fine feathered friends.
What you’ll want to load your feeders with depends on whether you’re trying to encourage your local squirrel population to feast or to ban them from your feathered friends’ pantry.
If your interest involves feeding squirrels, then do your furry little friends a favor and give the safflower seeds a miss. Instead, choose something more palatable to these tiny rodents, like nuts, fruits, or vegetables.
There are plenty of vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, etc., that make a great addition to their diet. Some fruits they love and are healthy are apples, strawberries, bananas, honeydew, oranges, watermelon, etc.
They aren’t picky eaters, for the most part, so everything from acorns and roasted pumpkin seeds to fresh broccoli and banana slices will go down without complaint.
Discouraging Squirrels from Eating Your Birdseed
If you have the more common concern of keeping squirrels away from seed meant for songbirds, then safflower might be just the ticket. By choosing a birdseed mix containing a high proportion of safflower seed, you’ll give these feisty furballs an excellent reason not to eat everything in sight, which means there will be something left for less-picky avians to enjoy.
It would help if you also opted for a squirrel proof bird feeder that has worked for many bird lovers. There are several types available on the market that will help keep squirrels from eating the birdseed.
However, you’ll want to keep in mind that squirrels aren’t the only creatures that find safflower seeds bitter, so make sure the mix you’re offering your local birds contains a mixture of seeds that everybody will enjoy.
Also, keep in mind that most birds willing to eat safflower seeds have larger bodies, so you’ll want to find a feeder that allows them to perch as they eat while keeping competing diners away.
Set Up A Feeder for Your Squirrels
Not all homeowners approve of feeding squirrels. If you always have to chase squirrels away from your bird feeders, you may want to consider setting up a squirrel feeder.
If squirrels have a safe place to eat and drink water, they most likely won’t eat your birdseed. When you buy your birdseed, don’t forget to pick up a bag of wild squirrel feed to feed your backyard critters.
If you’ve ever wondered if squirrels can eat safflower seeds, hopefully, we’ve answered your question. Remember, the seeds taste very bitter to squirrels, so they won’t eat them unless nothing they prefer is available.
You can encourage squirrels to visit your wildlife feeders by providing foods they enjoy like nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and you can discourage them by including a larger percentage of safflower in the birdseed mixes you buy.