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Thistle Feeders

Nyjer seed is a tiny black bird seed cultivated in Africa and Asia. Used for over 40 years as a seed for wild birds, it is attractive to goldfinches, House finches, Purple finches, Pine siskins and redpolls. Given a choice between Nyjer and black oil sunflowers, the Goldfinches prefer Nyjer because it is much higher in calories and protein. We find that feeding Nyjer seed is the only way to assure the everyday presence of Lesser goldfinches at our home feeding station in Tucson. Sometimes we see American goldfinch and Lawrence’s goldfinch, but they are much rarer in the southwest than the diminutive Lesser.

People often call Nyjer seed “thistle,” but in reality, it is not thistle at all. Thistle is a noxious weed, capable of invading huge fields of agricultural land that produces purple to pink ball-shaped flower heads with spiny tipped bracts. Nyjer seed (Guizotia abyssinica) is a cultivated high calorie, high protein edible oil seed that produces a yellow daisy-like flower.

Nyjer seed is heated before importation primarily to keep any other invasive seed that may come in with Nyjer from spreading in this country. Even in the very rare instance that you find a live seed that is able to sprout under your feeder, you can simply pull the yellow flowered herb and have no worries about it spreading.

We highly recommend presenting Nyjer in a specialized feeder that discourages birds other than the intended feeder birds, i.e. Goldfinches, from feeding. The two types of Thistle Feeders featured in our store are stainless steel mesh dispensers, which the birds will cling to and feed from and UV Stable Polycarbonate tube feeders with specialized food ports and perches made to dispense Thistle efficiently and are made to accommodate Goldfinches specifically. Keeping a Nyjer seed feeder well supplied is a recipe for successful goldfinch feeding. Part of the goldfinch strategy to avoid predators is that they establish a few birds that watch for birds like Cooper’s hawks from nearby perches while the main body of the flock feeds. For this reason, a full thistle feeder that allows as many Goldfinches to feed at one time as possible is much more successful than one with only enough seed left to feed one or two birds.