Sun conure eating sunflower seeds

Can Parrots Eat Sunflower Seeds?

To say that sunflower seeds are popular among birds would be a huge understatement. Sunflower seeds are widely used in feeding backyard birds and are also quite a popular option in various seed mixes. 

However, when it comes to a domesticated bird like your parrot, a healthy diet may look very different. Parrots eat a varied diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and grains and do not entirely rely on one food as their source of nutrition. 

So, you may ask, can parrots eat sunflower seeds?

Parrots can eat sunflower seeds but they shouldn’t make a large part of their diet. This is because sunflower seeds are high in fats and carbohydrates which can potentially lead to weight gain in parrots.

In this article, we’ll go over why sunflower seeds should be fed in moderation to pet birds like parrots and tell you how you can include them in your parrot’s diet the right way. 

Types Of Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds, as the name suggests are the fruit of the flower. There are mainly two types of sunflower seeds that are commonly fed to birds – Black oil sunflower seeds and striped sunflower seeds. 

Black oil sunflower seeds have more calories and fat per seed compared to striped sunflower seeds. Striped sunflower seeds are larger in size, which makes them a little harder for small parrots to open with their beaks. On the other hand, black oil sunflower seeds which are more widely used, have thinner shells and are easier to crack. 

Types of sunflower seeds

Hulled VS Unhulled Sunflower Seeds – Which Is Better?

Hulled sunflower seeds, also known as sunflower hearts or cracked sunflower seeds. These seeds have their hard outer shell or husk removed, making them ready to eat or added into mixtures. 

On the other hand, unhulled sunflower seeds are sometimes referred to as in-shell seeds. They retain their outer shells. These shells are typically black and white striped and need to be cracked to have the inner part. 

So which one of these is better for parrots to consume? 

While both types of sunflower seeds are generally suitable for parrots, unhulled sunflower seeds are often recommended as they are whole and have not been processed. Hulled sunflower seeds lose some of their nutrient value during the shelling process. Also, hulled seeds can spoil much sooner if not stored properly due to the absence of their protective shell.

Black sunflower seeds

Why Are Sunflower Seeds Bad For Parrots? 

There is not enough nutritional value in sunflower seeds for parrots. A good portion of sunflower seeds, about 38 to 50% is oil. That means, over half of the calories in these seeds come from fat. Sunflower seeds are also quite high in carbohydrates and though it may provide parrots with energy, it can again contribute to other issues as well. Let us look at how a sunflower seed diet could be bad for parrots: 

Promotes Weight Gain 

Parrots are more prone to unhealthy weight gain on an all-seed diet. Sunflower seeds are around 50% fat by their nutritional composition, which means they can be a serious concern for the weight of your bird. While your parrot may not have any problem eating seeds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it can be extremely harmful and lead to health problems such as fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis.    

Nutrient Deficiencies

Although sunflower seeds have certain health benefits, they lack many of the essential nutrients required in a balanced diet for parrots. Just like us, parrots require a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from varied sources to stay healthy.

These nutrients are crucial for carrying out normal physiologic processes and promoting longevity. If a parrot’s nutritional needs aren’t met, it can lead to deficiencies, compromised immune function, a higher risk of diseases, and poor quality of life.   

High In Sodium 

Another reason, sunflower seeds are particularly a good food item for parrots is their high sodium content. They contain a substantial amount of sodium, about 9mg (per 100 grams). While that might not sound like much, if your parrot consumes too many of them on a regular basis, it could create a host of different problems. Parrots have a lower tolerance for sodium and eating in excess can lead to health issues, including elevated blood pressure, kidney problems, and fluid imbalances. 

Can you Include Sunflower Seeds In A Parrots Diet?

You can include sunflower seeds in your parrot’s diet but it should be done in moderation. As a rule, seeds should constitute no more than 20% of a parrot’s diet. You can feed your parrot a mix of seeds to help them get the most benefit out of them. However, it is not recommended that you give them a diet that is entirely seed-based.  

Also, you should not feed your parrots the packed sunflower seeds that are meant for human consumption. Many commercially available sunflower seeds are not fit for parrots to consume, as many of these seeds may contain added salt and preservatives. Their high sodium content may be okay for you to eat but can pose a health risk for your parrot. 

How To Feed Sunflower Seeds To Your Parrot? 

Parrots should be able to eat sunflower seeds in whichever form you give them. They can easily remove the hulls from the seeds on their own and access the nutritious kernel inside. Parrots are equipped with the tools and the skill to crack open hard shells and so eating unhulled sunflower seeds can allow them to use their natural instincts. 


An all-seed diet is not the healthiest choice for parrots. Parrots require a balanced diet with a mix of different foods to ensure they get all the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. However, sunflower seeds are not all bad for parrots. It is important to understand that sunflower seeds can better act as a supplement to your bird’s complete and balanced diet. Many seed mixes use sunflower seeds and they are commonly fed to parrots and other pet birds. You can feed it to them but be careful not to overfeed your parrots.

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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