American Goldfinch at finch tube feeder
If you’re dipping your toes into the backyard birding community, you may have heard many rumblings around town about nyjer seed. One of the most popular types of wild bird feed, nyjer seed is commonly incorporated into various wild bird seed mixes. This is because it is a favorite amongst many wild birds. Still, you may not know what nyjer seed actually is and which birds like it, or even why they like it! Valley Farms is here to demystify the nuances of nyjer seed to help you become a more educated backyard birder.
What is Nyjer Seed?
Nyjer seed, also referred to as nyjer, niger seed, or thistle seed, is a small black seed derived from the African yellow daisy. Many people wonder if nyjer seed is the same as thistle seed, and while nyjer is not related to the thistle plant, it is sometimes referred to as “thistle seed’ in casual contexts. That said, the two are not the same.
Why Birds Love Nyjer Seed
Wild birds flock to nyjer seed because of its high oil content. This makes it a great source of energy, which is crucial for birds looking to keep up their strength when flying long distances. From a non-caloric perspective, some birds also like nyjer because the seeds are small. This makes them easier to eat and digest, especially for small birds that gravitate towards eating small seeds.
Purple Finch at bird feeder
Which Birds Eat Nyjer Seed?
The types of birds that love nyjer tend to have smaller, pointed bills, which make it easier to access the tiny seeds by cracking the shells. Clinging birds (those that hang onto the sides of bird feeders as opposed to adopting a perched feeding position) and ground-feeders are the most prone to eating nyjer seed.
Some of the most popular types of birds that eat nyjer seed include:
Finches (American Goldfinches, European Finches, House Finches, and Purple Finches)
Lesser Redpoll eating nyjer seed
Will all birds eat nyjer seeds? The answer is probably, but some favor it more than others. While those featured above consider it among their favorite wild bird feed, other species will likely give it a nosh if it’s part of a wild bird seed mix. Fair-weathered nyjer friends include Woodpeckers, Thrushes, and Chickadees. This may be part of why you might see nyjer seeds in a chickadee feed mix.
Have you noticed that your backyard birds aren’t eating the Nyjer seed in your feeders? This could be due to a number of reasons, the freshness of the seeds being paramount. The best nyjer seed will be fresh, so it’s critical to make sure that you’re only filling your feeders with high quality, clean nyjer seed. Not sure how to tell if nyjer seed is fresh? Most nyjer seeds last about 4 weeks. Any longer and the oil could start to dry out. To test this, crush up a handful of seeds on paper and look for oil stains. The presence of oil stains means the nyjer is still fresh; little to no oil means it’s time to replace your nyjer seed supply.
Purple Finch on a tray feeder
How to Feed Birds Nyjer Seed
Some people wonder if you need a specific nyjer seed feeder or if you can put nyjer seed in regular bird feeders. The best thing to do, whether you're feeding birds straight nyjer seed or nyjer seed as part of a wild bird feed mix, is to use a specialized nyjer feeder like a mesh sock feeder or a finch tube feeder for easy access to the seeds. Finch tube feeders and finch socks make for no mess bird food situations bcause they help prevent the seeds from falling out of the bird feeder, which is something all birders can appreciate.
Finches eating from a finch sock. Available for purchase at Valley Farms® in multiple colors.
Valley Farms® Hearty Delight® Blend
No shells, no waste, absolutely no clean up!
Our Hearty Delight® wild bird food blend is perfect for bird lovers who want an abundance of various song bird species with absolutely no waste. A blend of sunflower hearts and chips in various sizes, specially hulled white millet, peanut kernels, Nyjer seed and cracked corn are all vacuum cleaned for a clean, filler-free product.
No seed will germinate in this blend.
Valley Farms® Hearty Delight ®
- American goldfinches
- Black-capped chickadees
- Black-headed grosbeaks
- Carolina wrens
- Downy woodpeckers
- Eastern Towhees
- Hairy woodpeckers
- House finches
- Indigo Buntings
- Mourning doves
- Pine grosbeaks
- Pine siskins
- Red-bellied woodpeckers
- Red-breasted nuthatches
- Scarlet Tanagers
- Spotted Towhees
- Tufted titmice
- White-breasted nuthatches
- White-throated sparrows
Created exclusively for use in finch feeders, this specialty blend attracts the house finch, gold finch, and purple finch. Our finch mix features golden German millet, Nyjer (black thistle) seed, canary seed, and chopped sunflower hearts which are fine enough to fit through the tiny feeding holes on a finch bird feeder.
Regions: North America, All Areas
Curious about where to buy fresh nyjer seed? Valley Farms® has you covered! Not only do we sell straight Nyjer Seed Wild Bird Food, but you’ll also find it in our Hearty Delight and Wild Finch Mix. Shop with us today!