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Thistle Feeders - Attract Goldfinches with Thistle Feeders

Updated on February 26, 2013

Thistle Feeder

The tube bird feeder is one of the most popular styles of bird feeders found today. You can find them hanging in many backyards, and with their small size and weight are easy to hang in an very visible spot. But many people don't know that there is actually more than one type of tube bird feeder. Nyjer feeders are a form of tube bird feeder that will attract small birds, in particular the American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a favorite of bird watchers everywhere as it's known for it's vibrant color and entertaining level of activity around the feeder. These birds live in colonies, and can be somewhat aggressive during the nesting period, but are generally a good neighbor and feed well with large flocks of birds. Predators of the goldfinch include squirrels, snakes, cats, weasels, and blue jays. They will eat some insects, but mostly feed on seeds from a wide range of plants that include dandelions, ragweed, thistle, sunflower, and alder, among others. Goldfinches use the thistle plant to line their nests. They are found in the country, weedy fields, orchards and in the suburbs.

Nyjer Seed (Thistle Seed)

Nyjer seed is actually a fruit called an achene, is a favorite birds seed, and is especially a favorite of the Goldfinch. Often referred to as "thistle seed" or "birdnip", these birds will go into a feeding frenzy at times when they find a source of it. The Nyjer name is actually a trademark to differentiate it from real thistle seed, which is not as desirable, and also to move away from the common name niger seed, which is often mispronounced. This seed is high in oil content and hence is a great source of energy for the birds. It's relatively expensive as it is imported from India and Ethiopia, and it must be sterilized by heating so that it won't be introduced as a non-native plant in the US.

Thistle Feeders (Nyjer Feeders)

Thistle feeders are generally a tube style bird feeder. Since the Nyjer seed is so small, these will have a special port to dispense the seed without spilling. Some will have slots on the side of the feeder, and there are a few that take advantage of the fact that goldfinches use their feet when feeding, and will have the feed port below the perch. This makes it harder for pests to steal the feed.

Another common style is a simple mesh sack feeder. These are low cost, they don't last too long, but will get the job done.

Try one of these feeders in your back yard. You can put one near another feeder and since the nyjer is hard for larger birds to extract from the feeder they can co-exist with larger seed feeders.


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