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January 13, 2011


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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.
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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?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Carol, thanks for sharing! We've seen juncos eating niger before, fun to see!


The juncos are eating the nyger seed this winter - haven't noticed that before.

Dorothy M. Self

My dog ate some of the nyjer seed I purchased for the birds. Will this seed hurt my dog?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Charlie, As far as finch feeders with perches or with screens, we like to start people out with a finch feeder with perches. Then as they add a second feeder (finches are sitters!), a mesh finch can make sense.
In areas that get Common Redpolls and/or Pine Siskins, we love recommending the mesh because of how many birds it can hold. Seeing a feeder packed with these finches can be amazing!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Karen, sometimes the birds take a little while to find the feeder, so spread a little on the ground. If they still don't come, sometimes moving the feeder to another location will help. Good luck!


Hi Carol: My mom wants a Niger bird feeder for Christmas, for Chickadees and Finches - she's a huge bird lover and has much luck with these birds. Any suggestions on where to buy one? Should I use Niger food as well? She lives in MN so the feeder and food will have to be OK with our climate.

Charlie Wertheimer

Do you recommend nyjer seed feeders with perches or just screen?


Good Morning,

I have a bird feeder that uses nyjer seed. I was not getting any birds at this feeder. Replaced old seed with new seed just the other day (based on your article). Still no birds.Any other suggestions?

The Zen Birdfeeder

SK, how interesting! I wonder if they were young birds trying to find out if they liked it? Thanks for sharing your observation.
Eagleyepatrick, I'd say your best bet is the compost. I'm glad to hear you're cleaning up under your birdfeeders - it's healthier for the birds. Thanks for reading and happy birdfeeding!


Hi Nancy sorry the first post for you. what can I use nyger shells for? can I use it in the compost heap? I buy 20kgs at a which leaves a lot of waste around where feed the birds ,I am blessed to have every garden bird on the list of garden birds plus more so I have a lot of waste most goes on the compost heap but not too sure about the nyger husks. kind regards patrick
your input is also very welcome, regards


We used to put out sunflower seed in one feeder and niger in the feeder beside it and this summer temporarily stopped the sunflower seed. Now the CARDINALS are eating the niger!!!

The Zen Birdfeeder

Gene, here's the nutritional values of the sterilized seed we sell at our Wild Birds Unlimited shop:
Minimum Protein 13%; Minimum Crude Fat 27%; Maximum Crude Fiber 19%.


Do you know whether the imported sterilized nyjer seed has any nutritional value after being heat sterilized.

The Zen Birdfeeder

Judy, I don't know if any cultures eat niger seed but I do know it is used to extract oil to be used in cooking.

Judy Downtain

can people eat nYger(thistle)SEED?

The Zen Birdfeeder

Donna, thanks for visiting an reporting on your chickadees eating niger seed. Mine do it too!
Happy birdfeeding!

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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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