Aug 22, 2018 | Featured Web Article

All About Nyjer Seed

Nyjer is a favorite backyard food of goldfinches, pine siskins, common redpolls, house finches, and other small-billed seed-eating birds.
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Nyjer, or thistle seed, is that tiny, black, oil-rich seed best known for attracting goldfinches to backyards across North America. Nyjer is typically offered in special tube feeders with tiny slots or in mesh sock feeders. Here are a few things that every feeding station manager should know about this popular backyard food.

1. When Nyjer seed dries out, birds won't eat it. Nyjer is an oily seed, which makes it an excellent energy source for the birds that eat it. But its oily nature also causes the seed to dry out over time and lose its attractiveness to birds. This can happen whether the seed is in a feeder or stored inside. Birds will turn their bills up to old, dried out Nyjer. Avoid waste by purchasing only the amount of Nyjer you can use up in a month or two's time.

2. Nyjer seed is not really thistle seed (and other confusing things about the name). Nyjer is often called thistle seed, but it is not the noxious thistle weed we see growing on roadsides. It typically will not germinate under your feeders since the USDA requires that all Nyjer seed imported to the United States be heat-treated for sterilization.

Nyjer is an agricultural crop imported primarily from India, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Burma (Myanmar). In these countries it is processed into both cooking and lighting oil.

3. Nyjer seed has a shell. If you think birds aren't eating the seed because you see a lot of black debris on the ground, examine it more closely: What you're seeing may be mostly the thin, empty Nyjer hulls.

4. When Nyjer seed becomes moldy, it must be discarded. Nyjer seed is vulnerable to spoilage while in the feeder. Replace Nyjer every three to four weeks if it is not being actively eaten. Shake the feeder daily to help prevent clumping and molding. If you're adding Nyjer to a feeder that has a quick-release base, add the seed from the bottom. This helps rotate the seed and prevents the seed in the bottom of the feeder from becoming compacted and moldy. Keep seed in the feeder dryer with the help of a weather guard or dome. And if bird activity slows down, fill your feeder only halfway.

If the seed does become moldy, it should be removed and disposed of where the birds will not find it. Use a 10 percent bleach-water solution to clean the feeder. Buy feeders that are easy to clean—the easier they are to clean, the more often we'll clean them, and that's good for the birds.

5. Goldfinches aren't the only birds that eat Nyjer seed. Nyjer is a favorite backyard food of goldfinches, pine siskins, common redpolls, house finches, and other small-billed seed-eating birds. You may also see nuthatches, chickadees, doves, downy woodpeckers, and other birds eating it.

And a bonus to offering Nyjer seed? Squirrels typically ignore it when fed straight up! So hang those Nyjer feeders and enjoy the finches and other birds.



About Nancy Castillo

Nancy Castillo is co-owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Saratoga Springs, New York. You can follow the bird activity in her yard at The Zen Birdfeeder blog.

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  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018
  • Can juniper titmice be found in eastern US? In Sourh Carolina? I swear we saw one!
    by Marnie Lynn Browder, Sun, 10 Jun 2018