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January 13, 2011


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The Zen Birdfeeder

Annick, great activity on that niger seed! Thanks for reporting in!
Joyce, I would recommend investing in an easy to clean feeder. It might be a little more expensive but it will last you for years. Check out WBU's Quick Clean finch feeders as well as the anti-microbial ones http://shop.wbu.com/products/productdetail/part_number=3442/567.0?os=354
Happy feeding and thanks for working hard to maintain a clean SAFE feeder for the birds!


I don't have a problem attracting Gold Finches I have a plastic feeder which I clean often but cannot seem to figure out how to clean the holes around where they feed. I tried long brushes & soaking but it doesn't seem to work.


I have Cardinals, Nuthatches, Dark eye Juncos, House finches, and of course Chickadees, Goldfinches and Downys eating the Niger seed this winter.

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.

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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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