Safflower is one of mankind’s oldest oilseed crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the 12th dynasty identified dyes made from safflower. Garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen.
Safflower oil is used in painting to replace linseed oil, particularly with white; it doesn’t have the yellow tint common to linseed oil. In textiles coloring, safflower's dried flowers are used as a natural dye.
Safflower oil is flavorless, colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It is used as a cooking oil, in salad dressing, and for margarine production – think YELLOW!
So WHY is there a photo of safflower birdseed at the top of this post?
Glad you asked, since this white, shiny conical safflower seed is popular in wild bird feeding – it’s good for wild birds since it has a high fat, protein and oil content. Cardinals like it and so do others: chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, grosbeaks.
So, you might be thinking. Wild birds like safflower seed, and it’s nutritious for them, that’s nice.
WHAT’s important is what ALL birds DON’T like it
Most nuisance birds – starlings, grackles – feeder hogs dislike its bitter taste and will (usually) avoid feeders with safflower seed. Most squirrels don't like it either. The operative word here is “most” because there will always be spoilers. But, unlike squirrels, chipmunks DO like safflower seeds, so if these ones are a problem, put a baffle on any feeders with safflower seed.
Wonder WHERE to find?
Not in those cheaper birdseed mixes you find in grocery stores, hardware stores or other retailers. Safflower seeds are found in quality wild birdseed mixes – ones that cost more. Last weekend, I bought a 7 lb bag at Tractor Supply for $7.
Does it WORK?
Yesterday, I put some in the tube feeder – not a single starling or grackle perched on it as before when using cheaper mixes. Lots of sparrows and wrens came by to feed, even fighting for space. When using the cheaper mix, grackles and starlings emptied the feeder within hours (often less). Safflower seed is costly, but it’s also costly to replace cheaper mixes often because of “feeder hogs".”
Today, I noticed that the safflower seed was on the ground and seems to have been shaken out of the feeder. Not sure if the feeder hogs were the culprits, but I’m going to watch from the kitchen window on Wed and find out.
Here’s a colorful cardinal couple – also our state bird.