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9 Animals That Eat Sunflowers (With Pictures)

Sunflowers are flowers with large heads that range in color from red to orange to the more commonly recognized yellow. There are over 70 different species of sunflowers, all of which three are native to North and Central America. These flowers are big and beautiful, but that’s not the only purpose they serve. Sunflowers serve as a food source for various animals. This article details nine different animals that eat sunflowers.

9 Animals That Eat Sunflowers

1. Squirrels

squirrel holds its food
Squirrel holds its food

Scientific Name: Sciuridae

Squirrels are small rodents. There are over 200 species of squirrel in the world ranging in size from 5 to 36 inches in length and weighing between 0.5 ounces and 4 pounds.

Some squirrels live in trees and others live underground, but all have similar diets. They enjoy nuts, seeds, roots, and other vegetation.

In areas where sunflowers are available, squirrels really enjoy eating them. Squirrels will consume the entire head of a sunflower if given the chance.

2. Chipmunks

Chipmunks on a log
Chipmunks on a log | image by Rodney Campbell via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Tamias

Chipmunks are technically members of the squirrel family, but many people don’t realize this. These ground squirrels are small, with black stripes on their backs.

There are 24 different chipmunk species in North America. These small rodents are omnivores that eat nuts, seeds, fruit, small frogs, worms, and insects.

These little guys also really enjoy sunflower seeds and stems. If you have sunflowers in your garden, don’t be surprised to see a chipmunk shimmying up the stems to get to the tasty seeds in the middle of the flower.

3. Deer

White-tailed Deer in bushy park
White-tailed Deer in bushy park | image by Bill Chitty via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Odocoileus

Deer are members of the Cervidae family, which includes moose, elk, and reindeer. The mule deer and the white-tailed deer are native to North America and are members of the genus Odocoileus.

These hooved mammals are herbivores that love to eat plants and flowers. The petals of the sunflower are particularly sweet and the seeds are nutritious, so they are a favorite snack for deer. If you have a field of sunflowers, chances are you can spot a few deer roaming around trying to snag a tasty treat.

4. Voles

water voles eating green plants
Water voles eating green plants | image by Peter Trimming via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Arvicolinae

Voles are small rodents that are closely related to hamsters and lemmings. There are over 155 vole species. These tiny creatures have long, furry tails, beady black eyes, and small, rounded ears. The majority of the vole’s diet consists of plants and seeds.

Voles are often found in fields where sunflowers grow, snacking on any fallen seeds. They also burrow under the ground and eat the root systems of the plant, killing it, so farmers may find these creatures to be a nuisance.

5. Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail
Eastern cottontail rabbit | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr
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Scientific Name: Sylvilagus floridanus

The Easter Cottontail is the most common wild rabbit species in North America. These rabbits are herbivores that eat plants, grass, twigs, bark, and clovers.

They are often seen in gardens munching on vegetables and flowers, so maybe a bit of a pest for gardeners. Sunflower seeds are a tasty treat for rabbits, so they can often be found in sunflower fields snacking on fallen seeds and petals.

6. Spittlebug

Spittlebug | image by IES MANUEL GARCÍA BARROS A ESTRADA – PONTEVEDRA via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Philaenus spumarius

These wingless insects are very small, with adults growing up to ¼ inches long. They get their name from the spittle, which resembles human spit, they leave behind while eating plants. Gardeners can look for the tell-tale sign when trying to identify which creature is eating the plants.

Spittlebugs feed on a variety of plants, flowers, and fruits, including sunflowers. If spittlebugs are consuming your sunflowers, you will see a collection of spittle about ¾ inches big. Luckily, spittlebugs don’t cause much damage to sunflowers or other plants while eating them.

7. Honey Bees

Honeybee getting pollen
Honeybee getting pollen

Scientific Name: Apis

Honey bees are social, winged creatures that are extremely important to agriculture because of the large amount of pollination they do. Honey bees are especially attracted to sunflowers because of their bright colors.

Yellow sunflowers emit UV light from the petals that the honey bee can actually see. The bees consume the nectar from the sunflowers and pollinate as they move from flower to flower, making sure the next crop of sunflowers can thrive.

8. Raccoons

Raccoons in swamp
Raccoons in swamp | image by pedrik via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Procyon lotor

Raccoons are omnivorous animals that will eat pretty much anything they can get their little hand-like paws on. They are nocturnal, so they prefer searching for food at night.

Raccoons find the seeds of a sunflower particularly tasty. If you have a bird feeder full of sunflower seeds, chances are a raccoon will pay you a visit.

9. Birds

American goldfinch
American goldfinch

It is no secret that birds like seeds and sunflower seeds are no exception. There is a wide variety of birds that enjoy munching on the seeds in the center of a sunflower or hanging in a bird feeder.

These birds include chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, house finches, bluejays, woodpeckers, and more. One particularly beautiful lover of sunflowers is the American Goldfinch.

These bright yellow birds love to raid sunflowers and can often be seen enjoying this treat in the garden. If you are a bird watcher, consider growing a sunflower garden. You will attract a wide variety of colorful birds.