Tips for feeding Nyjer seed

What is Nyjer bird seed?

Nyjer seed (also referred to as Nyger or thistle), is a small, black seed high in oil content, making it an excellent source of energy for the birds who eat it. Many birders choose to offer Nyjer in their bird feeders throughout the winter months since many non-migratory birds feed on the nutritious seed.

Commonly mistaken as thistle, Nyjer is not derived from the same plant species as the noxious weed. Natively from Africa, the Guizotia abyssinica is an annual herb, grown for its edible oil and seed. To prevent the germination of Nyjer plant from birdseed, the USDA requires treatment in order to sterilize it before it can be sold and used to feed birds.

nyjer nyger thistle bird seed
Nyjer/Nyger seed

What types of birds eat Nyjer?

Known as favorite feed for Finches, Nyjer seed can also attract other small-billed, seed-eating bird species. As always, the type of birds that show up at your bird feeders are largely driven by your geographic location. Here is a list of bird species who are known to feed on Nyjer seed:

Feeding tips

The best type of bird feeders for feeding Nyjer are mesh or sock feeders. To prevent extra mess and wasted seed on the ground, look for a feeder that has a seed catching tray at the bottom. The seed tray will catch any uneaten seed that falls from the feeder and provide the birds with another opportunity to feed. When filling bird feeders with Nyjer, try to pour quickly to prevent seed waste. Oftentimes, pouring this small seed too slowly can cause more spillage.

finch bird feeder
Funnel Flip-Top Mesh Finch Feeder (Model# FFM1)

If you’re looking for a bird feeder with more versatility than a mesh feeder, all Nature’s Way tube feeders come with thistle inserts that allow you to fill them with small seed like Nyjer. Refrain from using seed blends with thistle inserts since larger seed can block the thin ports. Wherever you decide to hang your feeder, make sure it’s secure and stable to prevent it being disturbed and spilling seed.

thistle inserts on tube bird feeder
Thistle inserts are included on all Nature’s Way tube feeders


Because of its high oil content and thin shell, Nyjer is known to spoil quickly – even in as little as a few days. There is also a chance that the seed could dry out prematurely during the heat treatment process, potentially spoiling it before being bagged and sold. Once the seed dries out, birds will turn to alternative sources to feed. If the birds aren’t visiting a new feeder filled with Nyjer, try changing the seed or buying a new bag before writing it off as a problem with the feeder. We recommend replacing Nyjer seed every few weeks to ensure it doesn’t spoil and harm the birds.

Make sure to thoroughly clean your feeders on a regular basis to prevent seed buildup and bacteria growth. If you notice mold growth, discard the seed immediately and sanitize your feeder by rinsing and scrubbing it with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water.

Comment on this post (4 comments)

  • Nature's Way Bird Products says...

    Hi Barbara,
    You can see our thoughts and suggestions in the previous response. In addition, for specifics on your feeder, please reach out to our customer service department directly via with your feeder model number. Thank you!

    September 12, 2022

  • barbara walker says...

    I’m having the same problem. The gold finches land in the feeder and try to get seed, but give up and fly away. Would removing the baffle allow more seed at the port?

    September 12, 2022

  • Nature's Way Bird Products says...

    Hi Ken, First we just want to make sure that you are using a straight thistle seed in your feeder? If you are using a blend of any kind you will not insert the thistle inserts. If you are using the correct seed, one way to confirm whether it is an issue with the feeder is to switch to a black oil sunflower seed or feed with a high concentration of black oil sunflower seeds (this seed will still attract finches along with a variety of other birds such as nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals) and see if the finches regularly use the feeder. Of course, if you think your feeder is defective, we suggest a return to the store or place of purchase for an exchange, credit, or refund according to their policy. Hope this helps and happy birding!

    August 07, 2021

  • Ken Diehl says...

    We use a high quality Niger/thistle seed but cannot seem to use the inserts for the benefits described. The seed seems to jam/clog while trying to fall through to the small internal slit in the inserts. I have adjusted the inserts to make sure that the maximum width of the slit is exposed. When I shake the feeder I can get the seed to appear behind the small exterior slots. The finches will come, pick out the seeds that they can get to and then abandon the feeder as there are no seeds falling into the perch ports.

    I have removed the inserts and will wait to see if the performance is improved. The internal slot on the port is still there so it remains to be seen if the seed will fill the now larger and more wasteful open port (without the inserts).

    I hope it works though I am at present disappointed because I bought the feeder because of the inserts as the birds put as much seed on the ground as they do in their stomachs.

    August 07, 2021

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published