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Can Parakeets Eat Sunflower Seeds? What You Need To Know!

Parakeet Eating Sunflower Seed

We know that sunflower seeds are a healthy snack for us, but how about our feathered friends? Are sunflower seeds good for your parakeet? Absolutely! Sunflower seeds are a healthy and safe snack for your parakeet, albeit in moderation.

We look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of adding sunflower seeds to your parakeet’s diet. Let’s start by exploring how healthy sunflower seeds are in general and what the negatives are. We also give you pointers on how many sunflower seeds are safe for your pet.divider-birdcage

The Healthy Sunflower Seed

sunflowerseeds closeup
Featured Image Credit: Pikist

Sunflower seeds come from the sunflower. There can be as many as 1,000 to 2,000 sunflower seeds contained in the head of a single flower! The seeds that are harvested are used for eating or are made into sunflower oil, which makes up the majority of the sunflower seed industry.

Sunflower seeds are excellent sources of vitamin B1 and B6, vitamin E, iron, selenium, copper, zinc, manganese, and potassium.

Known health benefits of sunflower seeds include:
  • The magnesium and other compounds in sunflower seeds can help lower blood pressure, which can also help prevent heart disease.
  • They contain healthy fatty acids, which can lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
  • Vitamin E can help lower C-reactive protein levels, which helps reduce chronic inflammation.
  • Studies have shown that eating sunflower seeds every day as a part of the diet can help to reduce blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes.

Sunflower seeds have several advantages, and they do make a delicious, nutty snack. However, there is a downside.

Problems With Sunflower Seeds

Black oil sunflower seeds
Image Credit: LeoNeoBoy, Pixabay

Just as they have their advantages, sunflower seeds have their disadvantages.

  • Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that is found naturally in the soil, and sunflowers tend to draw up the cadmium. It’s recommended not to eat more than 1 ounce of sunflower seeds every day in order to avoid the toxic effects.
  • They are high in calories, and if you get carried away eating them, they can lead to weight gain.
  • Some people might be allergic to sunflower seeds, and while this particular allergy isn’t common, it can happen. If you develop swelling or itching in your mouth, asthma, skin rashes, itchy throat, or anaphylaxis after eating the seeds, stop immediately and seek medical help.
  • Most sunflower seeds come heavily salted, which can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Sunflower seeds can lead to constipation.

But what about parakeets? Let’s look at the parakeet’s typical diet.

A Parakeet Diet

Image Credit: Piqsels

Wild parakeets (also known as budgies) do eat various seeds, such as grass seeds, fruit, vegetation, and berries. They naturally forage on the ground in their native Australia, and their diet changes based on the seasons and the availability of food.

It’s always important to be aware of how an animal lives and eats in the wild because it has a bearing on how to take care of them in captivity.

The diet of a captive parakeet is comprised of pellets, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. The general rule that you should follow is to provide your parakeet with a diet of about 75%–80% of pellets and up to 20%–25% of fruit and vegetables.

So, how do sunflower seeds fit into all of this?

Sunflower Seeds and Parakeets

Parakeet Eating Sunflower Closeup
Image Credit: HNBS, Pixabay

Many of the health benefits of the tiny sunflower seed can also be nutritious and healthy for parakeets.

High in energy: Sunflower seeds can provide a great source of energy for parakeets.
High in protein: The protein in sunflower seeds is relatively high, especially for a seed.
Essential fatty acids: These seeds are a good source of essential fatty acids.

There are also two different kinds of sunflower seeds: black oil and striped. The striped seed is the one that we are all familiar with. They have thick shells and can be hard to open. The black oil sunflower seed has thinner shells and is easier to crack open, and it also has higher fat and energy content.

Now that we’ve established that sunflower seeds seem to have many benefits, what are the drawbacks for parakeets?divider-birdcage

The Downside of Sunflower Seeds for Parakeets

Striped sunflower seeds_Csaba Nagy, Pixabay
Image Credit: Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

Sunflower seeds are definitely worse for parakeets than they are for us. They aren’t necessarily unhealthy in general, but they can be problematic.


Parakeets absolutely love sunflower seeds! Unfortunately, they love them to distraction, which means they will eat them to the exclusion of everything else. This can lead to a lopsided and nutrient-poor diet.

Parakeets don’t understand that the tasty sunflower seed isn’t that good for them in large quantities. These seeds should only be given to your parakeet as occasional treats.

High Fat

Sunflower seeds, while full of good fats, are still full of fat — more than 50%. This is part of what makes them so tasty and filling, which is obviously appealing for parakeets.

Part of the problem with this is if the parakeet eats too many sunflower seeds, they will become fuller faster, so they won’t want to eat anything else.

Additionally, the high fat can lead to an obese parakeet. It can also create the probability of the parakeet developing fatty liver disease.

Vitamin A

All seeds are low in vitamin A, and sunflower seeds are particularly low in this vitamin. Eating a diet high in seeds and sunflower seeds will most definitely lead to a vitamin A deficiency.

The symptoms and signs of a lack of vitamin A in a parakeet’s diet include:

  • Feather picking
  • Eye problems and infections
  • Poor vision
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feathers in poor condition
  • Poor bone growth
  • Poor reproductive ability
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea

If you notice that your parakeet has any of these symptoms, speak to your avian vet immediately.



A small number of sunflower seeds as occasional treats should be just fine. Most of your parakeet’s diet should be made up of a high-quality pellet diet, with seeds only being a tiny portion of that.

Just give your parakeet one or two sunflower seeds about once or twice a week, and only provide your bird with unsalted seeds. You can give them seeds with the shell, as parakeets are more than capable of cracking them open.

If you’re still feeling unsure if you should give your parakeet sunflower seeds, speak to your vet. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when taking care of a pet. Your parakeet is a part of your family, and while sunflower seeds might seem to make your bird super happy, you also want to keep your feathered companion in good health.

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Featured Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

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