Backyard Chirper

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Rising sunflower seed prices are putting bird feeders in a quandry

The price increase of black-oil sunflower seeds is putting bird lovers in a quarrel. Do they dole out more money to keep feeders full all winter or do they scale back by not refilling as often?

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are a number of people who are expected to decrease the amount of seed they put in their bird feeders because it’s becoming too expensive. Within a year, the price of seed doubled to an average of a dollar per pound.

You might be wondering why prices have gone up in such a short amount of time, but it’s a matter of economics. Last year’s harvest was not great and demand for the product also went up since sunflower seeds are used for a number of things. Those factors drove up the price and the outlook doesn’t look great this year either, so prices are unlikely to come down.

If you’re new to bird feeders, you might think it’s better just to opt for a different type of seed or bird food. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Ornithologists highly recommend putting out black-oil sunflower seeds in the winter because some birds, such as black-capped chickadees, don’t migrate to warmer temperatures, and they need the high energy found in sunflower seeds to sustain them throughout the winter.

Birds are also starting to cache some of the energy they gain during fall to help them in colder months. Many diehard bird lovers and enthusiasts have vowed that the price increase won’t affect their feeding habits because they enjoy the entertainment birds provide and want them to be properly nourished during the winter. On several online bird forums, others are lamenting the fact that they have to cut back and will only put out black-oil sunflower seeds if the winter gets especially harsh.

In the winter, using other types of food like millet is not helpful because chickadees will not eat it. That’s only a good item to put out in the spring and summer.

It’ll be interesting to see just how many people stop putting black-oil sunflower seeds in their feeder over the next few months. Will the price increase stop you from filling your feeder as often?

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. I’ll feed sunflower seeds as long as I possibly can.

  2. Unfortunately for me, and the birds, prices have already stopped me from putting black oil sunflowers in the feeder. They get the cheapest mixed seed with cracked corn. Previously that (mixed with woodpecker blend) was offered on the ground. And 3 hanging feeders filled with black oil and woodpecker blend. No more. Sorry birds. Price gouging takes its toll.

  3. […] I already reported, black-oil sunflower seed prices are already extremely high, so it’s understandable why you’d want to get the cheap […]

  4. I believe the government is at fault because of it’s push for gas made with corn. Farmers are growing more corn instead of sunflower seeds because there is more money in it. Shortages in food in other countries can also be linked to the USA push for more taxpayer subsidised gas made with corn.

  5. We almost purchased a 50 lb. bag of sunflower seeds yesterday. I saw the amount on the ticket and said no thanks. This is the first year in several that we won’t enjoy seeing all of our Cardinals. Food prices, fixed income, no raises in SS in awhile and no we hear they are going to appy a 1 % charge on cashing our SS checks when new law passes. Old folks are getting less and less.. Sorry for our pretty birds.

  6. Sorry to hear that Rodney. Hopefully the economy turns around and seed prices go down for a more pleasant situation. It’s sad when you have to deprive yourself of enjoying birds.

  7. We have winter-fed birds for over twenty years. We were staggered by the doubling of the price of the BOSS. We simply will not buy it, we cannot afford it. It is pretty apparent, from the stock left in the stores (all that we have visited), that nobody else around here is buying it, either.

  8. try putting out suet cake lots of protien and fats in this mixture for the birds in winter and using less black sun flower seeds and maybe a dab of peanut butter placed on your feeders the birds love it.

  9. Poor birds will not get sunflower seeds here – we have many feeders I can see 7 out my window. I fill them every other day all winter long. Not no more! May be. One will do! Double the price seems a bit greedy

  10. Me too! My birds LOVE us as we put out only black oil, some homemade suet cakes and other treats

  11. I would like to know what cheaper mix of crack corn and some black sun flower seeds I can feed my birds…l feed 50lb sun flower seeds a week any ideas would help.

  12. I usually have 500 lbs of seed on hand for the winter months which I was buying for $19.99 for a 50 lb bag at our Farm ad Fleet store. Now the price has gone up to $34 a bag. Being on a fixed income I Will Not be buying any more. Be sure to thank the Government of this count=try for these outrages price increases across the country.

  13. A 40 lb. Bag of black oil sunflower seeds was $17.99 at Walmart 2 weeks ago. This past week it went up to $22.99 !

    Will continue to feed the birds as long as I can afford to….

  14. When the same 50# bag is twice the price at a non-corporate store vs. a TS, that’s just price-gouging at some level…..

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