About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Does Nyjer Thistle Seed Go Bad?

I have been looking for a while now and thanks for this piece as I had found Nyger or Niger seed information very scarce. This page is more useful to me than Wikipedia so that's great..! I have a question please:

Since we introduced a Niger seed into our garden in the UK about 6 weeks ago the birds are rarely here. I did read somewhere else that if the Niger seeds "go off" they can put off birds plus we do have a Sparrow Hawk around also which it may be but they - i.e not Finches really don't seem to like it? Anyone else had problems with Niger seeds putting off birds? Thanks! Stevie http://ukbirdatables.co.uk

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Thank you very much for the kind comments. Nyjer is a very popular seed with the American Goldfinches in the US.

There may be several reasons your finches have stopped coming to the feeders. Nyjer seed can dry out fast. Make sure your Nyjer seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. If your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped.

European Goldfinches on a garden bird feeder in the UK
Buy your seed at a bird shop that gets in a lot of fresh seed regularly. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store has a seed delivery every Tuesday.

Make sure the feeder is clean and free of any mold. I don’t know about European Goldfinches or any of the UK finches, but American finches are finicky and avoid dirty feeders. It’s especially important to keep our American feeders clean because the finches gather in huge numbers in the fall and we don’t want them to spread diseases to each other or eat off dirty feeders.
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis

American Goldfinches also leave the last bite on their plate. Our finches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. We can’t just top off a feeder with fresh seed. We have to empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of the feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. Our goldfinches will probably eat down to that certain level again and then we’ll have to repeat the process.

There are also a lot of plants that attract finches. These birds love to flock to any flowers that form seed heads. If you garden with finches in mind, you get to enjoy them at the feeders and riding the flowers in search of seeds.

For a list of the finches in the UK go to: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/families/finches.aspx
For a list of the finches in the US go to: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse_tax.aspx?family=27

Related articles:
Nyjer (thistle) isn't related to Canada Thistle: http://bit.ly/nst8r4
Do I need to clean my bird feeder?: http://bit.ly/nUSOkX
Can You Scare a Hawk Away?: http://bit.ly/pa9E83

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