Shrinkage and growth compensation of artificially damaged common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) were studied in central North Dakota during 1981-1982 in an effort to increase accuracy of estimates of blackbird damage to sunflowers. In both years, as plants matured damaged areas on seedheads shrank at a greater rate than the sunflower heads themselves. This differential shrinkage resulted in an underestimation of the area damaged. Sunflower head and damaged-area shrinkage varied widely by time and degree of damage and by size of the seedhead damaged. Because variation in shrinkage by time of damage was so large, predicting when blackbird damage occurs may be the most important factor in estimating seed loss. Yield'occupied seed area was greater (P < 0.05) for damaged than undamaged heads and tended to increase as degree of damage inflicted increased, indicating growth compensation was occurring in response to lost seeds. Yields of undamaged seeds in seedheads damaged during early seed development were higher than those of heads damaged later. This suggested that there was a period of maximal response to damage when plants were best able to redirect growth to seeds remaining in the head. Sunflowers appear to be able to compensate for damage of ≤ 15% of the total hear area. Estimates of damage can be improved by applying empirical results of differential shrinkage and growth compensations.