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January 13, 2011


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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.

Joan Sims

I have also seen house sparrows feeding at my Niger seed
feeder. 😊I don't mind this, nor do I mind the house finches that feed at my feeder. At least starlings cannot feed at it.😊

vivienne toms

I have Niger seed, and this terminates wherever it seems to drop why is this

The Zen Birdfeeder

Interesting Lydia. Thanks for sharing.


I just finished raising an abandoned Mourning Dove and his favourite seed were Niger Seeds. He'd pick through the mixed stuff I had just to get them!
I'm thinking of getting a bag of just them for if he decides to visit. :D

The Zen Birdfeeder

Carolynn, you can't even rely on the "Sell By" date since big box stores put that date out so far!!! It's better to buy from a small retailer whose business relies on birdseed - their birdseed will always be fresher!


We also bought the seed from Home Depot and bought lots since it was so cheap....little did we know to check the date on the bag until after the fact. Birds will not touch it... Valuable lesson. Carolynn in Florida

The Zen Birdfeeder

Tomm, yes I've seen our Mourning Doves eating niger under the feeders too.
Also, robins commonly stay throughout the winter, as long as there are food sources for them. They eat fruit from trees like crabapples and sumacs. They're here in upstate New York all year long!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Howard, there are a number of possibilities. One could be location. Try moving the mesh feeder a little to a place the finches seem to prefer. I find that they like their own area (versus amongst all the other feeders) and they are fine with it being quite high. I have my finch station hanging off a 2nd floor balcony rail!
Make sure the niger seed in the mesh is loose and dry. Shake it occasionally to help that happen.
Sometimes finches are slow to adapt to a new feeder of any type, including a mesh feeder. I find that sometimes my goldfinches only use the mesh when the other finch feeder (with perches) is filled. As a result, I often use the mesh feeder only when finch activity is very busy and I need an "overflow" feeder to accommodate all the birds.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!


Mourning Doves constantly visit right under feeder and enjoy nijer seed. During last harsh winter in LeHigh Valley area of Pa. I would toss it on the patio and doves and juncos were grateful. Crazy robin(why it didnt fly south for winter?) enjoyed blueberries,raisins, and cranberries. : )


Was having a problem with Grackles bullying birds on my tube feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed and a suet feeder as well. Went to WBU store and it was suggested to get a mesh finch feeder fill with Nyger seed, switch to safflower seed in tube feeder and I purchased an upside down suet feeder. It has been a week with new arrangement. At first Grackles seemed to not like safflower seeds. No w they are on it constantly and I even see them hanging upside down on suet feeder. The finch feeder with Nyger is getting no action at all. They all wait for Grackles to leave and eat the safflower seed. Any ideas why the mesh finch feeder is not getting used?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Carolyn, thanks for sharing your experience buying Niger Seed. Hopefully you have a Wild Birds Unlimited nearby, or you can get it online at http://shop.wbu.com/products/productdetail/part_number=200105/567.0?os=354.
Thanks for visiting, and enjoy the birds!!!


Made the mistake of purchasing nyger seed from HOme Depot! It's been hanging for a week and NOT ONE bird has touched it! It must be very old seed, dried out and moldy,. Never again!
As an added comment, this was my first time buying nyger seed....had no idea it was so delicate.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Nick and Hank, thanks for the report on the other birds you've seen eating niger seed. Birds will be birds!!


I've definitely seen a chipping sparrow or two eat the nyjer I put out, along with the goldfinches that are so frequent. It's great to offer something that attracts birds but squirrels have no interest in!


I have Cardinals that eat the niger seeds.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Gillian, I am tempted to say no because it is so little, but they'd probably eat it if it was easily accessible. If you can have a feeder legally, I'd suggest a tube feeder with a tray attached to catch the seed and keep the ground cleaner.
Check out our online shop http://shop.wbu.com/products/productdetail/part_number=0402/567.0?os=354

Gillian Campbell

In my community we have been requested not to have bird feeders because the dropped seed attracts raccoons and rodents. I can see these animals attracted by other seeds, but are they drawn to dropped nyger seed ?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Birdy, not sure what the guy at the seed store accomplished by "squeezing" the bag. Fresh seed will have a bright, oily sheen to it. Unfortunately, old niger seed and seed improperly stored (stored way too long, stored in hot conditions) will dry out and be unattractive to the birds.
My advice is to buy your seed, including niger seed, from stores whose livelihoods rely on selling seed, i.e., birdfeeding hobby shops like Wild Birds Unlimited. You know these shops (1) go through a lot of seed so it doesn't sit around for a long time, (2) obtain the freshest seed possible because they specialize in birdfeeding and only do well when YOU succeed feeding the birds!


" Brand new Niger feeder purchased and I only bought 3 pounds of the bulk seed from a farm store that I usually don't get seed from. Birds are completely ignoring it. I think I have some old seed!! Is there a way to tell if it is to old?
Posted by: fishrman | March 09, 2015 at 10:13 AM "
I did the same thing. The birds weren't touching the nyjer, so I took it back to my local feed store and got another bag. The guy squeezed it to see if it was old, but it wasn't. Not sure why they didn't eat it but perhaps it has something to do with some other type of additive? I save my receipts in case this happens with other seed.
One more tip.
I prefer to attract the smaller birds so I only purchase black oilseed sunflower seed. Unlike the striped sunflower variety, the little birds can break these open with their beaks.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Fishrman - it's kind of hard to tell but look for seed that is dark black and shiny looking. Avoid duller looking seed, grayish seed, dusty seed. Avoid it if it has lots of other stuff in it besides niger seed. Best bet is to buy it from a local, small birdfood store like Wild Birds Unlimiteds which do not warehouse seed.


Brand new Niger feeder purchased and I only bought 3 pounds of the bulk seed from a farm store that I usually don't get seed from. Birds are completely ignoring it. I think I have some old seed!! Is there a way to tell if it is to old?

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  • 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.


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  • 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.