« Wings on Wednesday | Main | A Birdfeeder's Nemesis Bird »

January 13, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Jenifer, like you said, finches are finicky and all birds have habits like we do. They're used to the socks and just need some time to get used to the look and feel of the new feeders. Put them exactly where the socks were, fill them with fresh seed, and allow time (it could be weeks, because finches move around alot). Good luck!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Kathleen, niger seed that is 2 years old, no matter where you bought it, will be dried out and not attractive to the birds. Use niger seed up in 2-3 months after purchasing from a bird-feeding hobby shop. Buy it elsewhere, you have NO IDEA how long they've had it on their shelves!


Finches are finicky little birds. Mine come when I buy the "cheap" socks, already filled with seed. Environmentally this isn't my preferred way to feed, so I have tried multiple finch feeders and they reject them all. Eventually, I bring back the socks and they flock to them.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance. I enjoy reading your articles.


Goldfinches especially used to be regular feeders from our niger sock. Then I noticed that birds no longer ate from our niger sock unless the sunflower seed feeders were entirely empty. A few months ago I thought the sock might have mildew, so washed and bleached it. Today, when I refilled it, it seemed that the seeds had a bit of a rancid smell. I decided to hang it and see if the birds were interested at all. Having found and read your post, perhaps I won't wait too long before dumping. What is a reasonable lifespan for niger seeds? This bag was purchased about 2 years ago from a store that specializes in wild birds.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Charlie, thanks for sharing your observations. Interesting how birds can develop different preferences!

Charlie Craft

When I lived near Philadelphia, I would have goldfinches almost exclusively on the niger feeder, and house finches on the sunflower feeder. In winter the Juncos would be around the sunflower feeder. Now I've moved north near Wilkes Barre, and the house finches and goldfinches use both feeders, with both preferring the niger. The Juncos have just arrived this week, and they're also occasionally using the niger feeder.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Esther, thanks for sharing all the different birds you have at your finch feeders!
Jessica, I doubt the basil seed would harm them. Make sure the seed is fresh - that is a very common reason why finches stop coming to the feeders. Also, finches move about widely and they are also very cyclical - busy busy for a time, then nothing! Fill the feeder only halfway until they return.

Jessica Vigos

Hi there,

I live in Utah and typically have several yellow and red finches I feed. I have not seen them recently and am wondering what happened to them? I noticed one day they wear eating all the seeds from my basil plants that were starting to seed, could this have harmed them?

I will go by a new sock and see if I can spot any again I am worried about them?

Esther Zack

At my Niger seed feeder, in addition to Goldfinches, I've had House finches, Juncos, Mourning doves and Oak titmice.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Carolyn, it is a tough balance for cardinals on the perches of finch feeders. Is there a reason you want to STOP cardinals from eating your niger seed?
Gene, I'm not sure. The lack of vegetation where you see it may be from the thick mat that niger shells can form underneath feeders.

Eugene howaard

I wonder if nyger seed hulls can be used as compost. I have noticed nothing grows where I have put it. Gene Medford Or.


One would think that Cardinals would have a difficult time balancing on a Finch feeder, but every day Cardinals come to my Finch feeder to eat thistle. Why, and how can I prevent this?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Lynda, Niger Seed is usually a little more expensive than black oil sunflower because Niger is imported all the way from Africa.
The best way to save money is to first, buy smart!
- Niger Seed from big box stores may be cheaper to begin with, but is more questionable in quality. Older seed will not be eaten, making the savings not worth it!
- Buy Niger Seed from a birdfeeding hobby shop like Wild Birds Unlimited where you know you'll be getting fresher seed.
- Buy in smaller quantities so it doesn't grow stale and dry while you're waiting to put it out.
- Fill feeders only part way if the birds activity has slowed.
Good luck!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Gena, glad to help! Buy your Niger Seed in smaller quantities, preferably from a birdfeeding hobby shop like Wild Birds Unlimited where the seed is sure to be fresher! If you're not near one, here's how to get it online http://shop.wbu.com/products/productdetail/part_number=200105/567.0?os=354
Jill, though I can't say for sure, I doubt that the variety of Niger Seed used to feed the birds would thrive in Massachusetts. The great majority of Niger Seed is imported from Africa so the climate in Mass may be way too cold!

Lynda Snyder

I find Nijer very expensive. Where is the most economical place to find it?


I was wondering if it is possible to purchase the plants that produce nyger seeds (Guizotia abysinica) - so that I can feed the birds, without having to purchase the seeds....
I live in Massachusetts.
Would the plants thrive there??
Thanks for your advice.


I too purchased the seed and a new feeder from Home Depot with my birthday gift card, I had established several goldfinches with a disposable feeder from Walmart. I didn't know dried seeds could be too dry. I miss my golden beauties. Thanks for the lesson!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Randy, what an interesting assortment of birds you have at your finch feeders! The hummingbird was probably just investigating; it is doubtful that it would take the seed. The hummingbirds at the jelly is interesting too; they may have also been interested in the insects jelly would attract.
Thanks for sharing your great observations and happy birdfeeding to you Randy!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Connie, if you want to reduce the sparrows, make sure the seed you're offering is straight niger seed with nothing else in it. Also, a mesh feeder vs. a feeder with perches might also slow them down.

Randy McCabe

I was very surprised to see a Hummingbird at my thistle seed this weekend. I have a feeder for the Orioles with grape jelly nearby, which the Hummingbirds like as well. My Hummingbird feeder is about 50' away. Yes, Chickadees visit as much as the Finches. We are in the Brainerd, Minnesota area.


I have recently put up my first nijer seed feeder. It's a small feeder but I have seen five house sparrows at once clinging to the feeder and eating seed. The sparrows aggressively chase away the goldfinches. A pair of song sparrows are very happy with whatever falls on the ground from the feeder.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Mandolin, the niger seed sold as birdseed is Guizotia abyssinica, which has yellow flowers when it germinates.
Though I cannot speak for ALL Wild Birds Unlimited shops, most get niger seed which is imported from overseas, and thus is heat treated. The heat treatment is to kill noxious weed seeds that may have come in with the niger seed and is not to prevent the seed from germinating.


I think that the Nyjer seed I purchase from WBU is contaminated with Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis). The nasty yellow plants have popped-up under my thistle feeders during the past two springs. I understand that seed imported from OTHER countries has to be sterilized, but if they are sourcing seed from the United States and NOT sterilizing we have a huge problem on the horizon!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Joan, thanks for the report of House Sparrows eating your Niger seed. It's so interesting to see what birds might sample.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Vivienne, the seed is heat treated to kill anything that might be coming in with the seed, but since it has a shell, there is still the possibility that some of it might germinate in the right conditions. Raking up under the feeder is not only healthier for the birds, but will also remove seeds that might germinate.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Nancy Castillo

Fledged Button 062315 307x256

Become a Fan

WBU Sites


  • Named Top 25 Bird Blog of 2015
    by Bel-Rea Vet Tech School

    Students at Bel-Rea Vet Tech School voted The Zen Birdfeeder as one of their Top 25 Bird Blogs of 2015. These students devote their lives to helping animals and find The Zen Birdfeeder blog to be a source of inspiration, especially to those students who focus their study on birds.


  • Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.


  • Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.


  • Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.