An amazing seed for all types of finches and many other birds, Nyjer® is a popular option for feeding backyard birds. But what exactly is this seed? Learning more about Nyjer and what it offers birds can help you better meet birds’ dietary needs and offer this nutritious seed from your feeders.
What This Seed Is Really Called
Nyjer seed is commonly known by several names, including niger and thistle, even though it is not related to the thistle plant or flower. The name “Nyjer” was trademarked in 1998 by the Wild Bird Feeding Institute to prevent mispronunciation of niger. The seed was originally named after its geographic origin on Nigeria. The seed is from the African yellow daisy (Guizotia abyssinica), and in Africa is often called black seed or inga seed.
See also: All About Safflower Seed
Nyjer for Birds
These daisies are commercially grown in different parts of Africa, as well as in Nepal, India, and Myanmar. The seed is imported worldwide as birdseed. Before shipping, the seed is generally sterilized with a high heat treatment so it will not grow into an invasive threat in different areas.
Nyjer provides excellent nutrition for birds, including high amounts of fat and protein, as well as good proportions of fiber and sugar. This makes it especially valuable from late summer through winter and into spring when birds need superior nutrition for molting new feathers, traveling on migration, and surviving severe cold temperatures. Backyard birds that are particularly fond of Nyjer include:
- American goldfinches
- Common redpolls
- Dark-eyed juncos
- Hoary redpolls
- House finches
- Lesser goldfinches
- Mourning doves
- Pine siskins
- Purple finches
- Song sparrows
Many other birds will also sample Nyjer when they can reach it, including wild turkeys, buntings, small woodpeckers, quail, and chickadees. Smaller birds will visit feeders directly, while larger birds will happily forage under Nyjer feeders for spilled seed. Because the seed has a bitter taste, most squirrels, chipmunks, and other feeder pests won’t enjoy it.
See also: 8 Helpful Hints for Attracting Finches
Offering Nyjer in Your Yard
Comparatively, nyjer can be an expensive seed. It is important to offer it carefully so the seed is not wasted or may spoil before the birds eat it. It is well worthwhile to take the following steps to bring a diverse winter flock to the yard.
Choosing a Nyjer Feeder
Feeders with small, thin feeding ports are best for offering Nyjer, because birds can pick the tiny seeds out with their sharp bills, but the seed won’t quickly spill or blow away in a breeze. Mesh sock-style or metal feeders are a favorite for many smaller clinging finches, while tube feeders with narrow feeding ports and perches are also a great option for slightly larger birds and will help keep the seed drier and fresher.
Maintaining Your Bird Feeding Station
Because many birds that eat Nyjer will visit in flocks, they can quickly spill a lot of seed hulls (and some whole seeds) under a feeder, and that accumulation can smother grass and landscaping. Using a platform or fine mesh net under the feeder will catch that seed to keep the feeding station clean, and will also offer another space for other birds to feed on the spillage. It can also be helpful to rotate a Nyjer feeder’s location periodically so there isn’t so much hull accumulation in any one spot. Rake underneath the feeder regularly to help the seed decompose, and use an outdoor vacuum if possible to clean up the area.
Nyjer should be kept relatively dry or it will clump, making it harder for birds to access the seed. Damp Nyjer can also mold, which will make the seed less palatable to hungry birds, and different types of mold can even be dangerous to birds. Use broad baffles to protect Nyjer feeders from snow and rain, and store unused Nyjer in a cool, dry place well protected from rodents so it will stay fresh longer.
Nyjer is a valuable addition to any backyard bird feeding station, and offers birds superior nutrition just when they need it most. By knowing just how to offer Nyjer effectively, you can add this attractive seed to your backyard buffet. You’ll be amazed at how many birds enjoy it.