1) WHEN NIGER SEED DRIES OUT, BIRDS WON'T EAT IT
Niger is a oily seed which makes it an excellent energy source for the birds that eat it. But its oily nature also causes it to dry out AND LOSE ITS ATTRACTIVENESS TO BIRDS. Birds will turn their beaks to old niger seed. Avoid waste by only purchasing niger in a quantity you'll use in a month or two.
2) NIGER SEED IS NOT THISTLE SEED (AND OTHER CONFUSING THINGS ABOUT THE NAME)
Niger seed used to be called thistle, but it is not the noxious thistle weed we see growing on roadsides. It typically will not germinate under your feeders since the USDA requires that all niger seed imported to this country be heat-treated to sterilize the seed.
Niger is an agricultural crop imported primarily from India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Burma (Myanmar). In these countries, it is processed into both cooking and lighting oil. You may also see it called Nyger®.
3) NIGER SEED HAS A SHELL
As small as it is, a niger seed does have a shell. If you think birds aren't eating the seed because you see some on the ground, examine it more closely: you may be seeing mostly the thin niger hulls.
Goldfinches at WBU Eco-Clean Quick Clean Finch Feeder
4) WHEN NIGER SEED GETS MOLDY, IT IS BAD FOR THE BIRDS
Niger seed is vulnerable to spoilage while in the feeder. Replace niger seed every 3-4 weeks if it is not being actively eaten. Shake the feeder daily to help prevent clumping and mold. Make sure the seed stays dry; a weather guard can help in this regard.
If the seed gets moldy, it should be discarded and a 10% bleach/water solution should be used to clean the feeder. The WBU EcoClean Finch Feeder has antimicrobial protection and a Quick-Clean™ base to help make cleaning a snap!
5) MORE SPECIES THAN JUST GOLDFINCHES EAT NIGER SEED
Niger seed is one of the favorite seeds of goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and other small-billed seed-eating birds. We've also seen nuthatches, chickadees, doves, Downy Woodpeckers, and other small birds eating it. Let me know other birds you've seen eating niger.
And a bonus to feeding niger seed? Squirrels typically ignore it when fed straight up! So hang those niger feeders and enjoy the finches and other birds!