Nyjer Seed is a tiny, somewhat exotic seed that is a firm favourite of wild birds, but what do we actually know about Nyjer seed? I’ve put together this little guide intended to outline the facts on Nyjer seed, and why you should think about adding it to your regular selection of wild bird feeds.
Name and Origin
First off, I think we have to address the small conundrum that is often brought up with the seed: What is the correct spelling of “Nyjer”? Is it Nyjer or Niger?
Well, to be honest, there isn’t actually one single agreed spelling. The different variations of the word are usually; “niger”, “nijer”, or “nyger”. But for the sake of continuity, I’m going to be using “nyjer”, in this post.
Nyjer seed is native and originates from the Ethiopian highlands. however, it can also be found in Malawi and other parts of Africa. Commercially, it is produced in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and stretching all the way back to India and southeast Asia.
Is Nyjer the same as Thistle?
Many people also refer to the seed as thistle seed, but in fact Nyjer is not related to the thistle plant. The confusion stems from thistle seed being popular with goldfinches, who also adore Nyjer and sometimes mix the two.
Nyjer seed is a tiny, fine seed which is black in colour. It usually sprouts into a yellow-y flower, the scientific name being Guizotia abyssinica. It is often mistaken for a thistle, which is not the case. Before being exported, the seed is treated and sterilised by intense heat to stop germination, and sprouting of any flowers in your garden and potentially harming other native plants.
As well as a bird feed, nyjer seed is also often used for human consumption. The oil and the seed itself is often used in recipes for curries, chutneys and other food. It also has some medicinal value.
Should I use Nyjer seed for garden birds?
Yes, absolutely! Nyjer seed is rich in oil and is highly nutritious, and is great energy source for garden birds. This also makes it a great choice for winter feeding. It will give wild birds the high calories that will help store fat to keep them warm, and the lasting energy they need to survive the cold winter season. The high protein count will also benefit the regeneration of feathers when malting throughout the year.
What Kind of Birds Will it Attract?
If given the choice, most birds will eat nothing but nyjer seed. Because nyjer seed is so small and tiny, it is perfect for smaller seed-eating birds such as finches. These types of bird have smaller, sharp and pointed beaks, which are perfect for cracking open the shells of the nyjer seed. They are also very acrobatic when they are eating from feeders, often clinging to the sides or even upside down! This type of behaviour will encourage the birds to do this in the wild, when they need to find feed for themselves.
It will also likely encourage larger seed-eating birds, which tend to forage for their food, such as pigeons or doves. They will often search through feeder trays, and on the ground looking for seeds that have dropped by other birds.
What Birds eat Nyjer Seed in the UK?
- Finches – Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch etc
So there is quite a nice selection of birds that nyjer seed will attract, and will definitely liven up your garden!
What Seed Feeder is Best for Nyjer Seed?
One of the most important things to consider when deciding to use nyjer, is the type of seed feeder you should use. Because of it’s small and fine size, the nyjer seed will spill out of regular seed feeders as their ports are larger due to the larger seed.
Fortunately, there is a solution! Specialised nyjer seed feeders, are readily available to purchase. These have been designed as a round tube just like regular feeders, but with smaller ports. The smaller ports are helpful in keeping the seed from being eaten by any unwanted birds such as crows. A wire mesh, or soft mesh are also popular designs for nyjer feeders.
Another thing to consider, is the mess nyjer seeds can make. Whilst any stray seeds won’t sprout because of the sterilisation, there is the problem of them creating a bit of a mess. Therefore, it’s probably wise to invest in a feeder tray that will catch any debris as well as being a good method of attracting the larger seed-eaters.
Just one more thing to think about, is if you want a bag of nyjer seed to stretch a bit further, you could always try mixing it in with your regular wild bird seed.
Nyjer Seed Advice
- Nyjer seed can get mouldy, and can be really bad for the birds, even fatal. So be sure to change the feed every 3-4 weeks.
- We’d also recommend cleaning your feeders every time you do, just to further prevent any mould or bacteria growth
- Nyjer can typically last up to 2 months, but shortly it will go dry. When it has, birds are less likely to eat it. Remember, it’s an oily seed, so is naturally quite moist.
Well, that’s it! I hope I’ve been able to give a bit of information on nyjer seed, and why it’s a good idea to add it to your selection of wild bird seed! Happy birdwatching!