Several bird species enjoy eating seeds from marigold flowers. Different varieties of marigolds can be planted for birds to enjoy. However, it’s important to use minimal to no pesticides for safe consumption.
What You'll Learn
Marigolds, named for their array of golden-colored flowers, are a self-seeding annual that many small birds enjoy eating. When the flower bud dries and the base turns brown, seeds are ready to be picked and eaten by most birds. Marigold seeds are plentiful, nutritious, and tasty to small birds like finches and sparrows.
Different Types of Marigolds
There are over 50 varieties of marigold flowers, but the most common ones in gardens are tall African, French, and Signet marigolds.
The tall African flowers can grow to four feet in length, and the large pom-pom-like flower bud can grow almost four inches across.
This variety, also known as Mexican marigolds, is a popular choice for cutting flowers and decorating borders. They come in orange and yellow and bloom abundantly.
French marigolds are the best pick for a longer and more prolific blooming marigold. This is a shorter, bushier flower, growing between 5 and 18 inches with blooms about 2 inches across. The stems are a maroon color and bear double-headed flowers. The colors for this variety are orange, yellow, and mahogany.
Signet marigolds are edible and much different in appearance with single, lacy petal flowers. They are primarily yellow and orange. Hybrids of this flower can be creamy, burgundy, and bi-colored.
Marigolds Attract Pollinators and Birds
This aromatic, drought-tolerant flower is used by gardeners to repel unwanted pests and invite pollinators like butterflies and birds to their gardens.
Their powerful scent is a good deterrent for rabbits and deer. The bright yellow and orange blooms are visually attractive to insect-eating birds like goldfinches and other small birds that enjoy eating the seeds.
Where to Get Marigold Seeds
Birds get marigold seeds from the base of the flower bud and can pick at them while the flower is still green at the base or when the bud is brown and completely dead.
They pull out the seeds from the inside of the petals and can also pick at fallen seeds from dried buds on the ground. Marigolds are so good at self-seeding, this flower may not even have to be replanted every year.
These seeds are not normally included in wild bird seed mixes, but can be purchased at nurseries and garden supply stores.
However, commercial grade seeds might not be the best option for your outdoor bird feeder. Seeds for outdoor planting may have been treated with pesticides or fungicides that are harmful to wildlife.
Benefits of Marigold Seeds for Birds
Marigold seeds are fairly high in protein and carbohydrates and are an excellent energy source for birds. The small seeds are easily digestible and very plentiful.
Wild birds are naturally great at picking up the best food for their nutritional health. They will eat a wide variety to get everything they need. There is no harm in having too many marigolds in your garden since birds will only consume what they need.
What to Avoid When Growing Marigolds For Birds
Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers on your marigold flowers. If buying transplants from a garden or nursery, ask if the flowers have been chemically treated before planting them in your garden.
These chemicals may be useful in killing off unwanted insects from your garden, but can also be harmful to the birds that eat the insects and the seeds.
Marigolds are normally picked by gardeners as a natural pest deterrent and have very few diseases. Birds will happily pick off any insects that try to eat your flowers, creating another natural pest control.
Marigolds require very little fertilizer. Over-fertilizing can actually reduce the number of blooms they produce and force them instead to focus on producing more foliage. Water flowers at the base. Wet blooms and stems can encourage fungal diseases.
Avoid deadheading the flowers too often. Some deadheading can encourage more blooms, but taking away the dried flower buds also takes away the seeds. Leaving the dried buds can entice more seed-eating birds into your garden.
Types of Birds That Eat Marigold Seeds
Many wild birds enjoy foraging for marigold seeds. Finches love these seeds, as well as sparrows, blackbirds, bluebirds, and robins.
Finches have stout conical beaks perfectly adapted to pillaging flowers for seeds. Sparrows have short, strong beaks as well, but have an added bone in the tongue to stiffen it to hold more seeds. Blackbirds and robins have a diet of invertebrates, vegetable matter, and will enjoy marigold seeds as well since it is a high-energy food.
Crow and Grackle Problems
Crows and grackles can tear apart marigolds, sometimes pulling the flowers completely out of the soil. Although it appears they do this for no apparent reason other than entertainment, it can also be to search for insects and bugs to eat.
Also known for bullying smaller birds, they can devour most seeds and fruits, leaving almost nothing behind. Methods to keep these birds away might also keep away other seed-eating birds.
The best way to keep crows and grackles away is to avoid placing millet bird feeders in your garden. Bird feeders made to keep out squirrels will keep bigger birds away as well. By limiting their food supply in your garden, they are less likely to stay. Cover crops with bird netting and grow fruits and vegetables in wire caging or greenhouses.
Other Seeding Flowers Birds May Enjoy
In addition to planting marigolds, you can add other self-seeding flowers to your garden. Sunflowers, zinnias, Black-Eyed Susan, and coneflowers are a colorful variety of flowers that produce plentiful seeds that are safe for birds.
Marigolds are bright, beautiful flowers with many uses for most avid gardeners and bird watchers. Prolific blooms provide plentiful seeds for small birds to eat and enjoy. While attracting beneficial pollinators like butterflies and bees, they deter unwanted pests from garden beds.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.