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Nyjer Bird Seed

Nyjer seed, also known as thistle or niger, attracts finches. Find out more about this popular finch seed.

Sharon Stiteler
Posted: March 19, 2013, 4:05 p.m. PST

American Goldfinch
Nyjer feeders attract American Goldfinches, House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Indigo Buntings and Painted Buntings.

Excerpted from "The Need for Seed” in "Popular Birding Series: Backyard Birding,” published by publisher I-5 Publishing LLC.

Known by many names, the nyjer bird seed started out as "niger" (pronounced NYE-jer) and imported from Nigeria. Unfortunately, because the name was occasionally mispronounced, birdseed sellers started calling it by the folkname "thistle." This name also caused controversy because some people confused it with the noxious thistle weed.

Wild Bird Feeding Industry in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, came up with the idea of spelling the name phonetically: nyjer. The bird seed is mostly called "nyjer” or "nyjer thistle” now. Whatever you call it, this is a great bird seed to attract finches.

Nyjer is best offered in finch-style tube feeders with tiny slits that allow access to small backyard birds while preventing the seeds from spilling on the ground. Nyjer also can be offered in mesh bags that finches cling to while feeding. Finches have to crack open a shell to get to the nut meat, so expect husks on the ground.

Always purchase nyjer seed in small quantities. Finches avoid bird seed that is more than six months old or has become wet. If you have a full finch feeder and the finches suddenly stop visiting, it's a sign that your nyjer seed has gone bad. Finches will avoid the bird seed feeder entirely or, on the rare occasion that they come to the birdfeeder, a finch will hop to a perch and take a peck, hop to a second perch and take a peck, hop to a third perch and take a peck, then leave the bird seed feeder altogether.

You can offer nyjer by itself or buy a mix with extra-fine sunflower chips, which finches also enjoy. Beware, however, when sunflower chips are involved; Downy Woodpeckers sometimes peck the holes of the backyard bird feeder until the holes become bigger so they can eat the bird food.

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Posted: March 19, 2013, 4:05 p.m. PST

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